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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
Southern California

Sea Snake Arrives At The LA County Natural History Museum

Venomous sea snake stays in California.

A rare, poisonous sea snake that washed up on a southern California beach was transported to the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum on Saturday afternoon. Bob Forbes found the 2-foot-long snake, according to Huffington Post, on Friday at Silver Sand Beach in Oxnard in Ventura County. It died early Saturday afternoon before being transported to the museum. This is the farthest north the species has ever been found.

Known scientifically as Pelamis platurus, the sea snake is all black except for a striking yellow underside. It has a black triangular head that curves into a sharp point and a flat yellow tail with black dots. The medium-sized thin snake eats mostly fish, eel, frogs, and salamanders.

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The yellow-bellied species is the widest ranging sea snake in the world, but is rarely seen as far north as California. It inhabits coasts off of Africa, Asia, Australia, Central America, and Mexico. It was last seen in southern California in San Clemente in 1972. Experts say it made its way up to Ventura County due to warmer waters as a result of the El Nino weather patterns. The warmer water expands the range of environments that the snake can inhabit.

Assistant Curator of Herpetology Greg Pauly says that the snake provides the museum, and future scientists, decades and decades of research of these species. The museum started the preservation process on Saturday after several samples were taken for DNA testing. The testing will reveal the species in the area that are related to it, Pauly said.

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He walks through the movable aisles of their collection of sea snakes, pointing at the end of one aisle to where the new specimen will go. In another room, he puts on rubber gloves before diving into the plastic box that houses the snake, pulls it out and displays it to an ATVN camera. 

He explains that this particular specimen is an addition to the only other sea snake found off of the California coast in Orange County. These two from California are rare compared to the other yellow-bellied ones from Latin American waters, and even one from Costa Rica.

Pauly’s advice for anyone who encounters a sea snake on the beach is to stay away from it because it will bite if handled or provoked. He says any photos of snakes that have washed ashore should be sent directly to the museum at

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