Research Shows Why Sea Snakes Attack Humans

Research Shows Why Sea Snakes Attack Humans

( – Scuba diving presents various risks like decompression sickness, overpowering currents, boats, and other potential dangers. Encountering marine life also carries its own set of perils. However, sea snake attacks fall into a category of their own. A new study published in Scientific Reports explains why.

Scuba divers commonly report falling victim to unprovoked attacks by sea snakes, particularly when diving around tropical coral reefs. A recent scientific study focused on attacks by olive sea snakes (Aipysurus laevis) in the southern portions of the Great Barrier Reef.

According to the study, male snakes will sometimes approach unsuspecting divers, wrap themselves around their arms or legs, and bite them. As it turns out, what appears to be a vicious attack may actually be a misguided “courtship response.”

Male olive sea snakes coil themselves around their female counterparts during mating season. The females respond to the ritual by swimming away from the males, which causes them to pursue their potential mates.

When divers encounter the males, their first instinct usually involves pulling away from them. According to the study, this response mimics that of courting females, and the males swiftly pursue them, landing a few “love bites” on them as they attempt to overtake their prospective mates.

Making matters worse, male olive sea snakes don’t have very good eyesight, contributing to their confused efforts to partner with scuba divers.

Macquarie University herpetologist and co-author of the study, Rick Shine, may have put it best when he said the snake encounters are just a case of a “lovesick boy looking for a girlfriend” and making a fool of himself along the way.

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