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Yellow-Bellied Sea Snakes Can Endure Months of Severe Dehydration

"I have been told of a certain sea snake which has a very unusual method..."

yellow bellied sea snake

Unfortunately, we are not as cool as most aquatic animals with the ability to filter saltwater and provide ourselves with fresh drinking water whenever needed. Even though the assumption is that most sea creatures, like turtles, have this awesome ability to get rid of excess salt, it turns out that yellow-bellied sea snakes have one that’s quite rare: surviving severe dehydration. It’s not the best idea for us to go a week without consuming liquids, but imagine being able to survive months without water.

Researchers began to notice that the sea snakes would gather near the surface of the ocean in Costa Rica after heavy rainfall; the fresh water sits on the surface of the saltwater. After hydrating, the sea snakes endure months without drinking water, because there is no rain to provide it.

According to Proceedings of Royal Society B, a team of researchers caught 500 snakes in order to test how they survived without fresh water for extensive periods of time. Snakes were collected at different times of the year to test their thirstiness by placing them in tanks. Researchers discovered that while waiting for rainfall during the dry season (which lasts for about seven months), snakes lost some of their body mass. Other methods used to test how much water the snakes stored in order to survive dehydration included weighing them first, unfortunately baking them to remove the water, and weighing them again.

The research suggests that this rare technique relates to the decline in the yellow-bellied sea snake population. Changing weather patterns would negatively affect the sea snake. Also, their glands are not efficient enough to filter salt. In addition, their skin doesn’t allow for the absorption of salt, so these critters are pretty vulnerable despite this unique ability.

Hardcore, sea snakes. Just swim around in a vast desert of liquid death and call it home. Whatever.

(via Phys.org, image via NOAA Photo Library)

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