A new study has found that male olive sea snakes in the Great Barrier Reef – which are highly venomous –have been regularly approaching scuba divers who they believe to be potential mates.
The study was published by Scientific Reports, after several divers reported unprovoked ‘attacks’ by the snakes, who display aggressive and agitated behaviour like flicking their tongues, wrapping around limbs, and even biting.
According to the study, this behaviour was most common during the winter breeding season and was mostly displayed by males, who made repeated advancements. As the co-author Rick Shine told CNN, ‘Like dogs, snakes mostly rely on scent, not vision, to work out what’s going on in the world around them’.
The ‘attacks’ often occurred whenever a diner attempted to flee, mimicking the responses of female snakes to courtship. During mating season, females often encourage males to give chase. Therefore, researchers are advising divers to remain still and avoid retaliation when approached by a sea snake.
‘Having a giant snake hurtle towards you and start checking you out can be life-threatening even if the snake doesn’t try to bite you. Panic is deadly… The snake is not attacking you. He just thinks that you may be a female snake. And once he works out that’s not the case, he’ll wander off to look for love elsewhere.’, Shine explained.