Sunday, February 18, 2007

Environment Agency identifies sea snake species in Abu Dhabi waters

The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) has been collecting sea snake specimens and sightings as part of its marine wildlife monitoring programme. A total of nine sea snakes were recorded during EAD’s adhoc marine monitoring programmes in Abu Dhabi Emirate.
The reptiles, some dead and some alive, were collected between 2002- 2006 off Marawah Island, Jernain Island and Abu Dhabi Island. The Agency recorded at least four sea snake species in Abu Dhabi waters. The species are the: Arabian Gulf Sea Snake (Hydrophis lapemoides), Yellow-bellied Sea Snake (Pelamis platurus), Short Sea Snake and one unidentified species of the genus Hydrophis. The snakes measured in length between 50 – 77 cm.
The Agency calls on the public not to touch any washed-up sea snakes that they may encounter on the beach. Sea snakes have weak spines and so become helpless and appear lifeless on land. Worldwide, there have been few records of human fatalities due to sea snake bites. Sea snakes can open their tiny mouths to bite or swallow larger objects. They are also capable of swallowing prey two to three times the diameter of their necks.
The Arabian Gulf Sea Snake, the most common sea snake in Abu Dhabi waters, is dangerous and its bite can be fatal. However, according to the Agency, this species is usually docile. It lives in warm, shallow waters or in sea grass. It is yellow in color, sometimes a pale dull green or grey, with dark bands along the length of its body.
Approximately 50 species of sea snakes occur in warm tropical waters and are distributed across the Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean. Ten sea snake species have been described in the Arabian Gulf. The Agency has published these findings in the well-known Zoology in the Middle East Journal. The Agency will also publish a book on the UAE’s marine environment, with a whole chapter dedicated to Sea Snakes. The book is currently in print.

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