Scientists from James Cook University have discovered two critically endangered species of sea snakes, previously thought to be extinct, off the coast of Western Australia.
It's the first time the snakes have been spotted alive and healthy since disappearing from their only known habitat on Ashmore Reef in the Timor Sea more than fifteen years ago.
"This discovery is really exciting, we get another chance to protect these two endemic Western Australian sea snake species," says study lead author Blanche D'Anastasi from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at JCU.
"But in order to succeed in protecting them, we will need to monitor populations as well as undertake research into understanding their biology and the threats they face".
The discovery of the critically endangered short nose sea snake was confirmed after a Western Australia Parks and Wildlife Officer, Grant Griffin, sent a photo of a pair of snakes taken on Ningaloo Reef to Ms D'Anastasi for identification.
"We were blown away, these potentially extinct snakes were there in plain sight, living on one of Australia's natural icons, Ningaloo Reef," says Ms D'Anastasi.