Monday, 25 March 2013

Shrunken Heads of Sea Snakes Explained

Megan Gannon, News Editor
Date: 21 March 2013 Time: 01:31 PM ET

Some sea snakes have heads that look comically small compared to the rest of their body. New research shows that these shrunken heads evolved quite rapidly, allowing the snakes to hunt eels hiding in tight spaces.

If you only looked at the genes of the blue-banded sea snake and the slender-necked sea snake, the two species would seem nearly identical. But the close cousins, which are found in waters around Southeast Asia and Australia, have quite different physical looks, researchers say.

"The slender-necked sea snake is half the size, and has a much smaller head, than the blue-banded sea snake," study researcher Mike Lee, from the South Australian Museum, said in a statement. "This suggested they separated very recently from a common ancestral species and had rapidly evolved their different appearances."

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