It is well recognized that most marine vertebrates, and especially tetrapods, precisely orient and actively move in apparently homogeneous oceanic environments. Here, we investigate the presumptive role of oceanic currents in biogeographic patterns observed in a secondarily marine tetrapod, the yellow-bellied sea snake (Hydrophis [Pelamis] platurus). State-of-the-art world ocean circulation models show how H. platurus, the only pelagic species of sea snake, can potentially exploit oceanic currents to disperse and maintain population mixing between localities that spread over two-thirds of the Earth's circumference. The very close association of these snakes with surface currents seems to provide a highly efficient dispersal mechanism that allowed this species to range extensively and relatively quickly well beyond the central Indo-Pacific area, the centre of origin, abundance and diversity of sea snakes. Our results further suggest that the pan-oceanic population of this species must be extraordinarily large.
- Received May 23, 2016.
- Accepted August 4, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.