Sharks can now be tracked by scientists with a camera attached to the animal’s dorsal fin. Researchers at the University of Hawaii and the University of Tokyo have announced they are studying sharks by attaching cameras to track them once released. To better understand the predator’s eating habits, the shark also swallows a special sensor. The experiments are meant to give a “shark’s eye” view of the animal’s life free of human interference where the animal can swim in its natural environment.
Sharks are one of the most misunderstood creatures in the world. They are difficult to study up close for extended periods of time. When aroused, they become aggressive and too dangerous. Researchers can now track sharks and study the animal in its natural setting far away from human contact.
Scientists capture a test subject with hooked bait and a heavy fishing line. Once brought alongside a boat, an accelerometer-magnetometer, a digital e-compass, that determines the accurate heading and orientation of an object, in this case a shark is attached to the base of the dorsal fin. A radio antenna extending toward the shark’s tail signals researchers its global position and ocean depth. To offer the same view the shark sees, there is a waterproof camera. The equipment is able to withstand deep ocean pressure and has a durable battery. This system has been attached to Tiger, Bluntnose, Galanopoulos, and Sandbar sharks.
Before the animal is released, the shark ingests another sensor that is wrapped in fish. The instrument give scientists a greater knowledge of the shark’s feeding habits. Electrical measurements track the ingestion and digestion of prey. The information helps researchers measure how much a shark eats, when it eats, and where it eats.
In a press release, Carl Mayer, a University of Hawaii Marine Biologist mentioned the purpose of the research is to fill in details about the shark’s role in the ocean. Mayer wants an improved understanding of how and what role sharks play in the ocean ecosystem. He hopes to answer some longstanding questions about the predator. Do they migrate? What are their mating habits? Can they be social creatures? Where do sharks birth their young and when? Can different species of shark hunt in groups? Do they follow migration patterns such as whales and dolphins?
The data being recorded on their activities was not quantifiable in the past studies. Now that sharks can be tracked by scientists, the new instruments can help sharks with conservation efforts. The instruments could also have commercial uses such as aquaculture and have been attached to tuna for the same purposes.
Meyer and his fellow researchers released footage of different shark species swimming together. Sharks interact with other fish. They move slower when deep in the ocean and move faster near the surface. The outer dorsal sensors reveal sharks swim in a powered manner instead of gliding through the water. Researchers have sought new ways to study sharks in their natural environment and can now do so from a safe distance. With a durable camera attached to the dorsal fin, sharks can now be tracked by scientists.
By Brian T. Yates