Investigation into Mortality and Morbidity of Stranded Australian Sea Snakes (Hydrophiini) on the South Queensland Coast
Marine snakes of the subfamily Hydrophiidae are obligate ocean dwellers, unlike their amphibious counterparts, the sea kraits (Laticaudinae), and as such, they are often refered to as 'true' sea snakes. This specialization means that the presence of a true sea snake on a beach is atypical and probably indicates disease or injury. The absence of a standardized guideline for assessing and examining sea snakes, lack of knowledge and resources, and the hesitation of untrained personnel to handle sea snakes, has meant that previous stranded animals have often been returned to the water, left to die on the beach or have not received appropriate treatment at veterinary facilities. This study examines the causes of mortality and morbidity in stranded sea snakes from the South East Queensland coastline, in the first investigation of its kind, and includes information for veterinarians and researchers on clinical examination, disease and injury and therapeutic approaches. Traumatic injuries such as eye, jaw and spinal lesions have been observed in stranded sea snakes and may present as acute injury or progress to chronic debilitation. Diseases, such as neoplasia, leukaemia and parasite overburden, have also been seen in wild sea snakes and these animals may present similarly. Sick, moribund or deceased sea snakes are intermittently found washed ashore along Australian beaches and these specimens may prove valuable as bioindicators of marine health.