"It was exciting” - sexually frustrated sea snakes mistake scuba divers for potential girlfriends

Diving during sea snakes mating season might not be a good idea, a new study, which analyzed 158 of interactions with olive sea snakes (Aipysurus laevis) over several years, found.

In the study, published on the website LiveScience, a diver off Australia noticed that when he met the male sea snakes, the venomous reptiles would coil around his fins, licking the water and even chased him underwater.

Reason? It was mating season, and the males thought he was a potential mate.

Lead researcher, Rick Shine said, "Males are very aroused and active while looking for “girlfriends.” Shine is an evolutionary biologist and reptile expert at Macquarie University in Australia.

He added that male snakes can't tell the difference between female snakes and scuba divers, which leads to what he called “comical interactions.”

Tim Lynch - a senior research scientist at CSIRO, Australia's national science agency - collected the data in the mid-1990s. "It was exciting; they are the most graceful of animals,” adding that "they are not actually trying to attack you; they are just curious."

Although the data is more than 25 years ago, researchers still think the findings are relevant today.

During 74 out of 158 encounters, Lynch was approached by a sea snake, with most of the encounters occurring during the snakes mating season. Males were more likely than females to approach.

The most striking behavior, according to Lynch, occurred in 13 incidents, when the males rapidly chased him as he swam away.

"Females don't do any chasing; they do the fleeing [during mating], so swimming away from a male snake is mimicking courtship behavior," which encourages the male to follow.

For the entire study, click here.


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