Planet Ark News - The underwater heroes helping scientists understand sea snakes
Planet Ark News

The underwater heroes helping scientists understand sea snakes

Date: 04-Nov-19
Author: Liam Taylor

Scientists now believe the previously unknown prevalence of sea snakes in the area may be a sign of their importance to the ecosystem.

Scientists now believe the previously unknown prevalence of sea snakes in the area may be a sign of their importance to the ecosystem.

A social group of snorkelling grandmothers has discovered a large population of venomous sea snakes in New Caledonia and are now helping scientists understand the local ecosystem.

The project started in 2013 when Dr Claire Goiran from the University of New Caledonia and Professor Rick Shine from Macquarie University began to study the venomous greater sea snake, also known as the olive-headed sea snake, on the reefs of Noumea. Dr Goiran began enlisting friends of hers to help with the project and before long the project was receiving regular contributions from six local grandmothers. 

The group calls themselves “the fantastic grandmothers” and they swim up to 3km five days a week in an effort to document the local sea snake population. Pretty soon it became clear that the species, initially thought of as rare in the area, actually has a much larger population than expected.

“Even when I am stuck at university with teaching, I know what is going on in the study zone because the grandmas survey the zone for me and send me the photos,” Dr Goiran told The Guardian.

Goiran and Shine have now published a paper in the journal Ecosphere revealing there are more than 250 greater sea snakes in the bay. The findings suggest the snakes play a much more significant role in the healthy functioning of the local ecosystem than previously thought, though there is more work to be done to work out what that role is exactly.

 

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Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


Liam                                              Taylor

Author: Liam Taylor

Liam is Planet Ark's Communications Coordinator. Prior to joining Planet Ark Liam spent his time studying global environmental issues, travelling Southeast Asia on the cheap and working for a sustainable property management company in Bali, Indonesia.
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