Sea snakes first entered the marine environment 15 million years ago and have been evolving ever since to survive in its changing light conditions, according to a new study.
Research led by the University of Plymouth has for the first time provided evidence of where, when and how frequently species have adapted their ability to see in colour.
It suggests sea snakes’ vision has been modifying genetically over millions of generations, enabling them to adapt to new environments and meaning they can continue to see prey – and predators – deep below the sea surface.
In an unexpected twist, the study published in Current Biology also suggests that diving sea snakes actually share their adaptive properties not with other snakes or marine mammals, but with some fruit-eating primates.
The research was led by Dr Bruno Simões, Lecturer in Animal Biology at the University of Plymouth, and involved scientists from the UK, Australia, Denmark, Bangladesh and Canada.
Dr Simões, formerly a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellow at the University of Bristol (UK) and University of Adelaide (Australia), said: