Monday, August 14, 2017


Article Written By: Teresa Marotta


Sea snakes of certain regions of the Pacific island of New Caledonia have begun developing a full black colour as opposed to their regular black and white striped body. Researchers suspected mining waste as the cause of this adaptation. The increase in heavy metals in their environment has caused the snakes to adapt by developing a darker skin.

"The animals I study continue to astonish me," says Rick Shine from the University of Sydney.
"I think it's remarkable to find industrial melanism in organisms as different as moths and sea snakes!"

Upon measuring the elements within the snakes’ skins, researchers confirmed their hypothesis as it revealed higher levels of chemicals including zinc, manganese, arsenic, nickel, and cobalt. The chemicals were higher in concentration in snakes surrounding New Caledonia’s nickel mining industry and a remote section of Australia's Great Barrier Reef that was once used to test bombs.

Researchers believe that the elements were in the food the snakes ate, which include fish eggs. Furthermore, the production of melanin (which causes the darker colour)  provides protection to the snakes by blocking UV radiation, serving as protection against infectious agents, aiding in the absorption of heat to stay warm, and colouring the skin to match surroundings.

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