Yellow-bellied sea snake
An example of a yellow-bellied sea snake. One of the rare creatures was found washed ashore in Newport Beach Monday. Photo: Aloaiza/Creative Commons 3.0

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County will exhibit rare sea snakes this weekend, including one that washed ashore in Newport Beach on Monday, officials said Thursday.

A yellow-bellied sea snake washed ashore Monday, only the fifth time in the state’s history that one was documented in Southern California shores, officials said. It’s the first time that one was documented in the state in a non-El Nino season, officials said.

It is rare to spot the venomous, warm-water snake this far north, but climate change has heated up the seas, which could be a factor, according to officials with museum, which will exhibit the snakes in its collection, beginning Saturday and Sunday and continuing next weekend.

Visitors to the museum may view other yellow-bellied sea snakes that washed ashore during the 2015-16 El Nino season.

“For the fourth time in just over two years, we have discovered this beautiful sea snake in Southern California,” said Greg Pauly, associate curator of herpetology at the museum. “It’s uncommon for these snakes to be seen this far north, as they favor warmer waters off the coast of Baja California, and, until now, unprecedented for us to see one in a non-El Nino year, when offshore temperatures are cool.

“We are thrilled to add it to our permanent collections and to have the opportunity to understand what brought it here, and what its presence might mean for the ecology of Southern California’s ocean.”

–City News Service

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