Drinking by sea snakes from oceanic freshwater lenses at first rainfall ending seasonal drought

Lillywhite, Harvey B., Sheehy, Coleman M., Sandfoss, Mark R., Crowe-Riddell, Jenna, and Grech, Alana (2019) Drinking by sea snakes from oceanic freshwater lenses at first rainfall ending seasonal drought. PLoS ONE, 14 (2). e0212099.

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Acquisition of fresh water (FW) is problematic for FW-dependent animals living in marine environments that are distant from sources of FW associated with land. Knowledge of how marine vertebrates respond to oceanic rainfall, and indeed the drinking responses of vertebrates generally following drought, is extremely scant. The Yellow-bellied Sea Snake (Hydrophis platurus) is the only pelagic species of squamate reptile and ranges across the Indo-Pacific oceans, having one of the largest geographic distributions of any vertebrate species. It requires FW and dehydrates at sea during periods of drought. Here we report drinking behaviors of sea snakes precisely at the transition from dry to wet season when rainfall first impacted the ocean following 6 months of seasonal drought. We show that the percentage of sea snakes that voluntarily drank FW in the laboratory when captured over eight successive days decreased from 80% to 13% before and after rainfall commenced, respectively. The percentage of snakes that drank immediately following capture exhibited a significant linear decline as the earliest rains of the wet season continued. Drinking by snakes indicates thirst related to dehydration, and thus thirsty snakes must have dehydrated during the previous six months of drought. Hence, the progressive decline in percentage of thirsty snakes indicates they were drinking from FW lenses associated with the first rainfall events of the wet season. These data reinforce the importance of accessing oceanic FW from precipitation, with implications for survival and distribution of pelagic populations that might be subjected to intensifying drought related to climate change.

Item ID: 57236
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
Copyright Information: © 2019 Lillywhite et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC by 4.0) License.
Funders: National Science Foundation (USA)
Projects and Grants: NSF grant IOS-0926802
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2019 07:32
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310301 Behavioural ecology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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