Playing 'heads or tails' helps sea snakes deceive their predators

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Washington, August 6 (ANI): A new research has claimed that in a deadly game of heads or tails, venomous sea snakes in the Pacific and Indian Oceans deceive their predators into believing they have two heads, when in fact, their second head is actually their tail.

The discovery, made by Dr Arne Redsted Rasmussen and Dr Johan Elmberg, showed that Yellow-lipped Sea Kraits use skin markings and behaviour patterns to fool predators into thinking their tail is a second head, complete with lethal venom.

There are over 65 species of sea snakes in the tropical waters of the Southern Hemisphere, ranging from Africa to the Gulf of Panama.

All sea snakes have extremely potent venom, which is among the most toxic known in all snake species.

When hunting for food, sea snakes probe crevices and coral formations, temporarily forcing them to drop their guard to threats from the surrounding waters and making them highly vulnerable to attack.

However, the Yellow-lipped Sea Krait has been found to twist its tail so that the tip corresponds with the dorsal view of the head, which combined with deceptive colouring, gives the illusion of having two heads and two loads of deadly venom.

The discovery was made while senior author Arne Redsted Rasmussen was diving off the coast of the Bunaken Island in Indonesia.

A large Krait was followed for thirty minutes, swimming between corals and crevices hunting for food.

Rasmussen was momentarily distracted by a second snake, but when looking back he was surprised to see the "head" was facing him while the tail probed the coral.

Rasmussen's surprise grew when he saw a second head emerge from the coral instead of the expected tail. It was only when the snake swam away that the first head was clearly seen to be a paddling tail.

To build upon this discovery researchers examined 98 Sea Kraits from three major museum collections in Paris, Berlin and Copenhagen.

The research confirmed that all snakes of this species had a distinctive colouration pattern, with a bright yellow horseshoe marking on the tip of the head and the tail.

The yellow was deeper than the colours on the rest of the body and the black colorations were much longer than the dark bands on the rest of the body, highlighting the similarity between the head and the tail.

The reason for this mixture of behaviour and coloration results from a developed defence strategy needed when the snake is probing for prey. (ANI)

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