Scientists explain why sea snakes attack divers

Scientists explain why sea snakes attack divers
Scientists explain why sea snakes attack divers

Biologists have speculated why venomous sea snakes often attack divers. The reason may be that divers move in the same way as the female of these reptiles. The description of the study was published by the scientific journal Scientific Reports.

“Divers often talk about unprovoked attacks by extremely venomous smooth sea snakes (Aipysurus laevis). Reptiles swim right towards humans, wrap themselves around and bite them. We analyzed the behavior of the reptiles and concluded that attacks are due to that the males of these reptiles consider humans to be females and try to care for them, "the researchers write.

Smooth sea snakes inhabit the western shores of Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. Divers who study these reefs have often complained of reptile attacks. Therefore, biologists led by Professor of Macquarie University (Australia) Richard Shine decided to investigate what causes such attacks.

After three years of observation, scientists have identified several unusual features in the behavior of the snakes. The two most important of them were that mostly males behaved in this way, and at the same time they attacked divers mainly in winter.

At this time, the mating season begins for sea snakes. During it, snakes, usually leading a solitary lifestyle, consciously seek contacts with each other. When they meet, the male begins to circle around the female, moving in zigzags and making other sharp movements.

The female can twine around the male and agree to mate or try to escape from him. In this case, the unlucky boyfriend begins to pursue the female and continues his "dance" as long as he has the strength to do so. Something similar, scientists suggest, happens in the case of divers.

This, in particular, is indicated by the fact that all snake attacks occurred in those cases when divers tried to escape from the male Aipysurus laevis, who showed interest in them. In addition to this, most of the attacks occurred at a time when the males lost sight of the females they were chasing or conflicted with competitors for their attention.

All this, as noted by Schein and his colleagues, speaks in favor of the fact that divers should stand still when meeting sea snakes, and not try to escape from them, which will cause males to start stubbornly pursuing the "female." In one case, as scientists note, the snake swam after the diver for two tens of minutes, after which he was tired, and the animal caught up with him.

Fortunately for the swimmer, he avoided snake bites, but in other cases, such a swim may end up unsuccessful for a person. For this reason, scientists recommend not to provoke Aipysurus laevis and not to react to the actions of asps, even if they swim close to the body of the scuba diver and begin to "feel" it with their tongue. This will minimize the likelihood of a bite, biologists summed up.

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