Planet Earth

SNAPSHOT: These Sea Snakes Can 'See' Predators Using Their Tails

D-briefBy Alison MackeyMar 15, 2019 9:00 PM
(Credit: Graham Edgar)
(Credit: Graham Edgar)

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Have you ever wished for eyes in the back of your head? How about your rear end?

Researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia have been studying “seeing” tails among several species of Australian sea snakes. That includes the olive sea snake, Aipysurus laevis, pictured here.

Their long tails make a tempting target for predators, but evolution has endowed at least three species of these sea snakes with a neat trick: the skin on their tails can sense light.

The scientists used RNA sequencing to identify a short list of genes that might be responsible this rare ability. As it turns out, it is rare indeed — lead study author Jenna Crowe-Riddell notes “The olive sea snake was the only reptile, out of more than 10,000 reptile species, that was known to respond to light on the skin in this way.”

Their research was published in the journal Molecular Ecology.

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