Olive Sea Snakes
Science & Technology

Mating Season Mishaps? Unprovoked Attacks by Venomous Olive Sea Snakes on Scuba Divers

Olive sea snakes are among the many largest marine snake species, and are considerable on some coral-reef areas. Credit score: Jack Breedon

Attacks by venomous Olive sea snakes on scuba divers could also be misdirected courtship behaviors, based on a examine printed in Scientific Experiences.

Scuba divers regularly report unprovoked assaults by sea snakes, which may contain chasing and biting. The explanations for these assaults have been unclear, however the brand new analysis suggests the ocean snakes could also be mistaking divers for potential mates.

Professor Rick Shine from Macquarie College’s Division of Organic Sciences and colleagues analyzed information collected between 1994 and 1995 describing Olive sea snake habits throughout encounters with one of many authors, Tim Lynch, when he was a diver within the Nice Barrier Reef, Australia.

The researchers discovered that sea snakes approached the diver throughout 74 out of 158 encounters and that this occurred extra regularly throughout mating season – between Could and August. Males had been extra probably than females to strategy the diver, particularly throughout mating season, and to flick their tongues close to the diver’s physique. 13 encounters concerned sea snakes quickly charging on the diver.

The authors noticed that every one expenses occurred throughout mating season and that these involving males occurred instantly after an unsuccessful chase of a feminine, or an interplay with a male rival. Three males had been additionally noticed coiling across the diver’s fin, a habits normally noticed throughout courtship. Prices by females occurred after they had been chased by males or overpassed, after which re-approached, the diver.

Earlier analysis has prompt that sea snakes discover it tough to determine shapes in water. The authors recommend that sea snake assaults could also be precipitated by male sea snakes mistaking a diver for a rival snake or potential mate and feminine sea snakes perceiving a diver as a possible hiding place. By staying nonetheless and permitting a sea snake to research them with its tongue, a diver is unlikely to escalate the encounter and be bitten, based on the authors.

“The ocean is a harmful place for human beings – if something goes incorrect, issues can finish badly. And seeing a large sea snake hurtling in direction of you actually qualifies as “one thing going incorrect”,” says Professor Shine.

“Hopefully, understanding why that snake is heading in direction of you – that he has mistaken you for a feminine of his personal species – can calm your nerves and result in a greater consequence throughout.”

Reference: “Mistaken id might clarify why male sea snakes (Aipysurus laevis, Elapidae, Hydrophiinae) “assault” scuba divers” by Tim P. Lynch, Ross A. Alford and Richard Shine, 19 August 2021, Scientific Experiences.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-94728-x

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