Researchers at the University of Hawaii and the University of Tokyo used instruments to get the shark’s eye view on how they actually live. They used sensors and video recorders, attached to the sharks, to see how they survive and thrive in the ocean. The project allows scientists to get a deeper insight as to how they swim, catch their prey and eat.
Carl Meyer, assistant researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology is associated with the shark research. He said “these instrument packages are like flight data recorders for sharks.” The equipment is able to provide new insights into the way sharks live by seeing their world through their eyes. Until now, sharks have only been studied while in captivity and tracked as far as their whereabouts once they were released. Scientists were not able to see what the sharks were doing or how they survived.
What they discovered through the shark’s eye view was that the powerful predators use much more power to swim that what they originally thought. They previously believed that the sharks glided more often, but now know that they used their tails far more often to swim greater distances, at a faster rate. The scientists also note that the deeper the sharks go, the slower they swim.
The sensors and videos also revealed that sharks travel in packs, regardless of the shark species they are. They are neither loyal or fearful to one another, yet they travel the ocean together. This is interesting, consider there are hundreds of different shark species swimming the oceans. The exception, they found, was tiger sharks, who also stick together for the most part. The group of sharks would travel together for periods of time, then separate and swim solo for a while. Smaller fish, however, are fearful of the sharks and flee the area when they see them coming, as one would expect.
A previous study on the behavior of great white sharks, published in Plos One, studied how multiple sharks scavenged over the same whale throughout the day, indicating a social pattern among the sharks. The larger sharks got first dibs on the carcass. While they feasted on the whale blubber, which filled them up quickly, they became uninterested in preying on seals.
50 sharks are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES,) however, only protects the white, whale and basking sharks. They hold the largest percentage of red-listed animals. They are also important to the ecosystem, despite their reputation as ruthless killers.
After 400 million years of roaming the ocean, sharks are just now being studied in a different way so that scientists can learn more about their habits and behaviors. Meyer and co-researcher, Kim Holland, presented their study on the sharks eye view this week at the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting. They pointed out the uses for the information collected from the sensors and videos, including increased public safety, better conservation practices and aquaculture. They plan to use the equipment to further study shark behavior and gain deeper insight into their eating habits.
By Tracy Rose