Australian Sea Snake species Aipysurus foliosquama and Aipysurus apraefrontalis rediscovered

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Who: Australian Sea Snake species Aipysurus foliosquama, Aipysurus apraefrontalis
When: Rediscovered
Why: Discovery was publsihed on 21 December 2015

Two Australian endemic sea snake species, namely Aipysurus foliosquama and Aipysurus apraefrontali were rediscovered by a team of scientists from James Cook University, Australia.

The two snakes were listed as Critically Endangered in 2010 due to their restricted geographic ranges of Ashmore and Hibernia Reefs, Timor Sea, from where they disappeared between 1998 and 2002.

The finding was published in a paper titled New range and habitat records for threatened Australian sea snakes raise challenges for conservation, in the journal Biological Conservation on 21 December 2015. Lead author of the study is Blanche D’Anastasi.

Aipysurus apraefrontalis snake
• Aipysurus apraefrontalis snake, the short-nosed sea snake, previously thought to be extinct was discovered in the waters of the Western Australian Ningaloo Reef.
• Humans haven’t seen a living short-nosed sea snake 15 years.
• It was spotted alive and healthy since disappearance from their only known habitat on Ashmore Reed in the Timor Sea.
• Since its disappearance, the species was listed as the critically endangered species.
• According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), this species has gone from being the third most commonly recorded sea snake in the 1990s to no individuals being recorded in intensive surveys since 2000, indicating a decline of at least 90 percent in the past 15 years.

The critically endangered short-nosed snake was snapped by a Western Australia Parks and Wildlife Officer, Grant Griffin, who later sent photo of a pair of snakes taken on Ningaloo Reef to D’Anastasi for identification at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies of James Cook University in Australia.

Aipysurus apraefrontalis snake
• Aipysurus apraefrontalis snake are known as leaf-scaled sea snakes in the lush seagrass beds of Shark Bay.
• Researchers discovered the snake in Western Australia more than 1000 miles away from their only known habitat, Ashmore Reef.
• The leaf-scaled snakes went from making up half of the recorded sea snakes on the reef flats in the 1990s to no individual sightings since 2001.

Both leaf scaled and short nosed sea snakes are listed as Critically Endangered under Australia’s threatened species legislation, which means they have special protection.