Sea snakes filmed 250m below the ocean surface

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VideoTwo sea snakes have been filmed swimming on the ocean floor at more than twice the depth they were previously known to be found.

Sea snakes have been discovered off the North West coast swimming at twice the depth of their previously known limits.

Footage from INPEX Australia’s Browse Basin operations of a sea snake swimming at 245 metres deep, and another sea snake at 239 metres has been released to public.

Before the discovery the diving record for a sea snake was 133 metres.

Sea snakes are found in tropical waters and are typically associated with shallow water habitats like coral reefs and river estuaries.

A sea snake cruising along the surface off the Ningaloo Coast.
Camera IconA sea snake cruising along the surface off the Ningaloo Coast. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr.

University of Adelaide School of Biological Sciences graduate Jenna Crow-Riddell said it was surprising to find a sea snake so deep.

“Sea snakes were thought to only dive between a maximum of 50 to 100 metres because they need to regularly swim to the sea surface to breathe air,” she said.

“We have known for a long time that sea snakes can cope with diving sickness known as ‘the bends’ using gas exchange through their skin.

“But I never suspected that this ability allows sea snakes to dive to deep-sea habitats.”

Record-setting dive of a sea snake swimming at 240 metres in the deep-sea ‘twilight zone’ taken in July 2017.
Camera IconRecord-setting dive of a sea snake swimming at 240 metres in the deep-sea ‘twilight zone’ taken in July 2017. Credit: INPEX-operated Ichthys LNG Project

The snakes were filmed in 2014 and 2017 using a remotely operated vehicle or undertaking work for the Ichthys LNG Project.

Australian Research Centre future fellow Kate Sanders said the finding showed what could be achieved through industry-university collaboration.

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