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Picture of the Day

Why are there no sea snakes in the Atlantic?

Sea snakes are an evolutionary success story. With about 70 species, they're the most diverse reptile group in the ocean, outnumbering sea turtle species 10 to one. But there is a glaring gap in sea snakes' near-global distribution: the Atlantic Ocean. Theoretically, sea snakes could flourish in the Atlantic: Warm, tropical regions such as the Caribbean offer prime sea snake habitat and living conditions. In a recent study, scientists chalked up the absence of sea snakes in the Atlantic to geography, climate and timing. Sea snakes evolved in the Coral Triangle region of Southeast Asia 6 to 8 million years ago, with the majority of species appearing between 1 and 3 million years ago. By the time any sea snakes spread across the Pacific to the New World, the Isthmus of Panama had already closed, blocking their access to the Caribbean.

Visit Website | Image credit: Kristen Grace/Florida Museum of Natural History