While watching underwater video of a male turtleheaded sea snake attempting to court a female, Jenna Crowe-Riddell noticed something shocking but not uncommon: the male got lost. After pursuing the female sea snake for several minutes along a reef off the coast of Australia, the male ended up about a meter (3 feet) away from the female. Suddenly, he had no clue where the female was located. For the next 10 minutes, Crowe-Riddell, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Michigan, watched as the male swam in circles, before ultimately giving up and losing the female entirely. “How do these snakes even find each other underwater? And once they do, how do they stay in contact?” Crowe-Riddell asked, wondering how these descendants of land snakes adapted to the challenges of mating underwater. A male turtle-headed sea snake begins courting efforts with a female. Image courtesy of Claire Goiran. Crowe-Riddell may have found an answer, or potentially several, outlined in a study published in June in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. In the study, she identifies multiple sexually dimorphic features — attributes exhibited in only one sex of the species — of the turtleheaded sea snake (Emydocephalus annulatus) that she hypothesizes stem from the evolutionary pressures of underwater mating. Understanding what makes underwater mating so difficult for these sea snakes begins with their evolutionary ancestor: the land snake. To locate each other above ground, snakes primarily use vision. But this becomes blurry underwater. A snake’s tongue, used for its…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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