Sunday, November 09, 2008

Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.

I found this new finding interesting. ScienceDaily reports on a new study that shows that sea snakes drink fresh water.

Sea Snakes Seek Out Freshwater To Slake Thirst

Sea snakes may slither in saltwater, but they sip the sweet stuff. So concludes a University of Florida zoologist in a paper appearing this month in the online edition of the November/December issue of the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology.

Harvey Lillywhite says it has been the “long-standing dogma” that the roughly 60 species of venomous sea snakes worldwide satisfy their drinking needs by drinking seawater, with internal salt glands filtering and excreting the salt. Experiments with three species of captive sea kraits captured near Taiwan, however, found that the snakes refused to drink saltwater even if thirsty — and then would drink only freshwater or heavily diluted saltwater.

So, saltwater sea snakes can literately dehydrate while swimming in their natural environment. That means that they need to live fairly close to fresh water, which limits their possible habitat.

This is why I love the scientific process. It was thought that we knew how sea snakes slake their thirst, but someone still make sure to investigate the subject, and thus proved the common assumption wrong.

The study can be found here (unfortunately behind a pay-wall)

For more information about the sea snakes, I recommend the wikipedia entry on the subject

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