Yellow-bellied Sea Snake

collected in 1950
RBCM 860
Scientific Name:
Pelamis platurus

This specimen of a Yellow-bellied Sea Snake, Pelamis platurus is a strong reminder that even large animals slip over our borders in the most unexpected ways. The snake was found in ballast water of the HMS Cayuga May 5, 1950, after the ship arrived here from Mexico.

The species – dangerously venomous – is native to southernmost California and out into the tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans; occasionally it is found in the Panama Canal. No breeding populations are known in the Caribbean, despite it being warm enough there to support them, so perhaps colonization is only a matter of time and chance contact of a male and female. Even a single pregnant female with up to 10 young, could start a breeding colony.

Fortunately, our waters are too cold to support this species. Other exotic snakes have appeared in the wild and in urban environments in British Columbia, but most represent escaped or intentionally released pets. One special serpentine stowaway (a Speckled Rattlesnake, Crotalus mitchellii) apparently hitched a ride from Arizona to Nanaimo in a recreational vehicle. This rattlesnake should remind us to be vigilant, and avoid inadvertently introducing new species to our province.

This object selected by Dr. Gavin Hanke. View Profile »