Researchers in Australia are convinced that poisonous sea snakes, known to approach scuba divers, may not harbour ill intentions for their human visitors after all.
Instead, they are likely looking for a little romance.
A study published in the journal Scientific Reports suggests that aipysurus laevis, known as olive sea snakes, may be experiencing ‘misdirected courtship responses’ when they swim towards divers as they are known to do.
Love brewed underwater!
The researchers found that the snakes—most of them males—tend to approach divers during their breeding season between May and August.
According to the findings, the male snakes also 'made repeated approaches, spent more time with the diver, and exhibited behaviors (such as coiling around a limb) also seen during courtship.'
Rick Shine, a professor at Macquarie University in Sydney, is lead author of this paper. He told USA TODAY that male snakes often seek out humans when they lose 'contact' with a female snake or while competing with other males for the attention of the female.
Shine believes data from this research raises some interesting questions about the seemingly ‘stupid’ behaviour of these sea snakes.
They can't eat a person. The person isn't a threat. Why are they attacking them? And of course they're not attacking at all. They're just looking for a bit of romance. It sort of sounds a bit silly that a male could mistake a human being for a female snake, but the reality is that snakes are a bit like dogs... They rely on scent rather than vision.
The research is based on data collected by Tim Lynch, co-author of the paper. The findings were derived from over 250 hours of interactions with sea snakes off the coast of Australia between 1994 and 1995.
According to the research, female olive sea snakes can grow to approximately 6 feet, while the male snakes are often smaller.
Although highly venomous, the snakes are not known to be aggressive enough to bite humans while underwater.
These things are deadly. They're highly venomous. But if you just hang there in the water and wait for it to check you out, it'll rapidly work out that you're not interesting and it'll go away.