This New Subspecies of Yellow Sea Snake Is a Master Contortionist

Posted by TF Oren
Photos by Brooke Bessesen via Science Daily.

Hydrophis platurus xanthos.

That’s the scientific name of a newly-classified subspecies of yellow sea snake. Brooke Bessesen of the Phoenix Zoo, Dr. Gary Galbreath of Northwestern University, and the Field Museum of Natural History have described this colorful new subspecies in the journal ZooKeys.

The new yellow sea snake is related to the yellow-bellied sea snake (Hydrophis platurus), but unlike its relative, lives in the far more hostile waters of Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica. The warm, turbulent waters experience very low oxygen levels from time to time.

As a result of its unforgiving surroundings, the new sea snake has evolved to hunt at night, where its brilliant yellow coloring acts as a mechanism for thermoregulation.

The new subspecies of yellow sea snake (above) and its relative, the yellow-bellied sea snake (below).

The most striking feature of this snake is its method of capturing prey. The opportunistic feeder positions itself in a repeating S-shape and hangs upside down from the water’s surface with its mouth open, waiting, in this peculiar ambush position, for small fish to swim by.

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The new subspecies boasts a set of physical and behavioral characteristics so unique that it’s possible it will earn itself status as a new species, but for the time being, until more data can be collected, Bessesen and Galbreath remain cautious.

Researchers captured, studied, and measured the snakes before returning them to the water.

In the meantime, what the authors are not reserved about is calling for conservation measures to be taken in order to protect the new snake’s habitat. The snake inhabits a 320 square kilometer range that is currently unprotected, rendering the reptile especially vulnerable to extinction.

You can read more about this new subspecies here.

What do you think of this incredible discovery? Let us know in the comments section!

All photos by Brooke Bessesen via Newsweek.

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This New Subspecies of Yellow Sea Snake Is a Master Contortionist