April 2 (UPI) -- Scientists have observed a sea snake swimming some 800 feet beneath the ocean surface in Australia, the deepest sea snake dive on record. The previous record was 435 feet.
An ocean floor exploration company, INPEX Australia, filmed a pair of snakes swimming at depths of 785 feet and 810 feet. The company shared the discovery with researchers at the University of Adelaide, which determined the sea snakes likely belonged to the same species. Both snakes were spotted in the Browse Basin off the coast of Western Australia.
Scientists reported the new record in the journal Austral Ecology.
Sea snakes live among the tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They are most commonly observed among the shallow waters surrounding coral reefs and river estuaries.
Researchers assumed sea snakes max out at around 320 feet beneath the ocean surface, as the marine reptiles, like marine mammals, must periodically surface to breathe air.
"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," lead researcher Jenna Crowe-Riddell, a recent doctoral graduate at the University of Adelaide, said in a news release. "But I never suspected that this ability allows sea snakes to dive to deep-sea habitats."
The new observations suggest there is much scientists don't understand about the behavior of sea snakes.
"In some of the footage the snake is looking for food by poking its head into burrows in the sandy sea floor, but we don't know what type of fish they're eating or how they sense them in the dark," Crowe-Riddell said.
The sea snakes were observed with a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV. Researchers suggest the latest discovery is an example of how scientists can partner with industry to learn more about less accessible marine environs.