PROJECT TITLE: The conservation status of Western Australia's sea snakes: Are species disappearing before they have been discovered?
RESEARCHERS: Vimoksalehi Lukoschek and Blanche D'Anastasi
LOCATION: Shark Bay World Heritage Area, Western Australia
NEWS: During this project sea snakes feared extinct were found at Ningaloo Reef
In 2010 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the first sea snake species as threatened with extinction. These three species are endemic to Western Australia and were listed as Critically Endangered or Endangered. Western Australia is particularly important for sea snake biodiversity as it is home to 21 of Australia’s 35 sea snake species, including five restricted range endemics that occur predominantly on coral reefs.
Many other species are currently listed as Data Deficient due to a lack of basic information about range extent, population size and connectivity, which are essential to evaluating conservation status. The data obtained from this research will provide information that is critical to managing and conserving sea snakes in Australian waters, particularly in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area.
This project is addressing some key knowledge gaps for sea snakes in coastal Western Australia, where almost no sea snake research has been conducted to date. With the funds provided by the Sea World Research & Rescue Foundation, Blanche D'Anastasi has conducted extensive field research in Western Australia, during which 240 sea snakes from 12 nominal species were sampled. The project is now in its laboratory phase, in which researchers are using powerful, cutting edge population genomics approaches to evaluate levels of genetic diversity and population structure between sea snake populations along the Western Australia coast, with a particular focus on the endemic Shark Bay sea snake Aipysurus pooleorum and the Australo-Papuan endemic Oliveheaded sea snake Hydrophismajor. We hope that our approach will reveal unprecedented resolution in the fine and broad scale connectivity of these two sea snake species.
Endemic: native or restricted to a certain place.
International Union for Conservation of Nature: The IUCN collate the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of wild species and their links to livelihoods – Red list.