Another highly venomous sea snake has washed ashore in Southern California, a rare — if not unsettling — find given that the species is typically associated with warmer waters to the south.
The carcass of the 27-inch-long male yellow-bellied sea snake was discovered Dec. 18 during a coastal cleanup near Huntington Beach and turned over to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, which announced the find Monday.
It's the second such sea snake to be found on California's shoreline this year after decades of being kept at bay by colder waters. It's also only the fifth to be recorded along the Pacific Coast of Baja and California, the museum said.
The snakes are among the most highly venomous in the world and can swim under water for up to 90 minutes. They pose only limited danger to humans, however, since they can't open their jaws very wide.
Herpetology Curator Greg Pauly said in a Facebook post that he picked up the most recent yellow-bellied sea snake on Friday, calling it "an exciting find and an important addition" to the museum's collection.
He noted that all five yellow-bellied sea snake records are from El Niño years, which California is currently experiencing. That means warmer waters off the Pacific are drifting more north, freeing up the potential territory of the brightly colored sea snakes.
The nonprofit Surfrider Foundation, which organized the beach cleanup, said in a video of the discovery that the first recorded yellow-bellied sea snake in California was in 1972 on San Clemente Beach. The second was spotted alive on Silver Strand Beach in October, but died soon after being taken to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service facility.
Watch a video of the Silver Strand Beach snake here:
Jason Wells is deputy news director for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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