A 2-foot-long venomous sea snake found Monday slithering along a California beach has biologists wondering if the find is more than a fluke.
A person walking along Newport Beach found a 25-inch-long yellow-bellied sea snake and gave it to a lifeguard, who took the serpent to Pacific Marine Mammal Center. It was later euthanized.
“When one of these marine serpents washes up on a beach,” said Greg Pauly, herpetological curator at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. “It means it is sick and doesn’t have enough energy to swim out beyond the shore break.”
The venomous snake is named for its yellow scales and yellow tail with black spots. The populous species can be found along the coasts of Africa, Asia, Australia, Central America and Mexico.
While a rare sight where it was found, the species has been spotted more often in recent years as warmer water temperatures have extended north, Pauly said.
Monday’s find was the third since 2015 and fifth since 1972.
“Oceans are warming and the species that respond to that change will be those that are the most mobile. So the big question now is this: Are sea snakes swimming off the coast of Southern California the new normal?” Pauly said. “A few more of these sea snake sightings in Southern California and we’ll have a pattern telling us that something remarkable is happening in our ocean and the species it supports.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.