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Rare Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake Washes Ashore In Southern California


A venomous sea snake washed ashore on Silver Stand Beach in Ventura County last week, and at least one person is pretty jazzed about it.

GREG PAULY: For living in Southern California, it's incredibly exciting to find this snake.

CORNISH: That's Greg Pauly. He's a herpetology curator at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles Country.


And from his description of the two-foot-long yellowbellied sea snake, even a non-herpetologist would be riveted.

PAULY: It's sort of a blackish blue on the top. And then it has a yellow line down each side. And then below that, it has a fainter yellow coloration. And then its tail is sort of this checkered pattern of black and yellow. It's just a really striking animal.

SHAPIRO: Pauly is really excited because these snakes are almost never seen in California.

CORNISH: They like warmer waters further south.

PAULY: This was the northernmost sea snake that's ever been found here in California, so this was about a hundred-mile range extension from the previous record.

CORNISH: But because this is an El Nino year, the Southern California waters are much warmer than normal.

PAULY: And we're seeing huge numbers of more tropical species moving northward, following these warm waters. Obviously, the sea snake just showed up. We've had hammerhead sharks showing up.

SHAPIRO: So we have a plot point for "Sharknado 4," maybe.

CORNISH: Right, right. Well, listen. It's not that bad. First of all, the snake that washed ashore died and is now safely preserved in a museum. And frankly, its fangs are tiny, and these sea snakes like to eat fish.

SHAPIRO: So if you see one, just stick with Greg Pauly's advice.

PAULY: I mean, the first thing you should do is jump up and down with excitement because it's pretty amazing. And every herpetologist in Southern California is just beyond jealous. And then get the camera out and try to get a photo.

SHAPIRO: And then send it to your local herpetologist...

CORNISH: Of course.

SHAPIRO: ...Who will be forever grateful. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.