Sharks hunt by combining their senses, is the newest finding from the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Fla., the University of South Florida in Tampa and Boston University. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation and published in the journal Plos-One after 61/2 years. As the Latin Post describes, the researchers have examined the shark’s vision, taste, smell and other senses in order to understand how they hunt their prey. The biologists have also taken in account the shark’s lifestyle and species.
The results of the study were astonishing. The researchers found that sharks hunt by combining their senses, and they would hunt differently due to the difference in species and lifestyle. Furthermore, it is critical to know how sharks interact with the environment in order to sustain a healthy global ocean population. Latin Post adds that in the past, researchers thought that the sharks were hunting based on their sense for smell. However, the sense of smell wasn’t as important, the study shows. Sharks were able to hunt visually, could swim toward the prey gracefully by using their lateral lines (sensors that feel water movement), strike by using their vision. Sharks are also able to detect the electrical fields produced by their prey.
Jayne Gardiner, a postdoctoral fellow at Sarasota’s Mote Laboratory, said that the team placed three different shark species – a blacktip, a bonehead and a nurse, and placed a video camera seeing through the tank’s window. Fish or shrimp were placed on the other tank’s side, while the team was releasing a hungry shark. As Bradeton Herald states, the next step for the research team was a temporary block of one of the shark’s senses. They blocked the vision with heavy plastic, the nose by using plugs with petroleum jelly, and paint that blocks the sense of electric movement and the lateral lines. When the sharks were released to get the fish, they didn’t have a problem.
Jayne Gardiner and her colleagues were surprised. She says that the most surprising result of the study is how the sharks are flexible in using their senses to grab the prey. She adds that the nurse shark was the only one that relied on the smell, but the blacktip and the bonehead could do it visually. This was an important study for the team because it showed that the sharks could feed in different environments.
Phillip Motta, professor at the Tampa campus, co-authored the study, saying that this was the most comprehensive multisensory work on any shark. To him, the most interesting difference was how different sharks were using and switching their senses to catch the prey. David Shiffman, a shark biologist from the University of Miami, praised the study, calling it as a step up in behavioral ecology, as stated in the Tampa Bay News.
The fact that sharks hunt combining their senses will have to change the way the mass thinks, because sharks are more complicated creatures than previously thought, Shiffman adds. Tampa Bay News writes that they researchers hope to know how the water pollutants affect sharks’ senses . Their next study involved understanding why the females return to the same place of birth to bore their young.
by Marija Makeska