Sharks Wearing Cameras Give New Insight Into Ocean Life [Video]


Thanks to scientists who strapped cameras onto sharks for them to wear, new insights about ocean life are being observed. Cameras strapped onto a grand total of 31 sharks, including a prickly shark, five bluntnose sixgill sharks, five sandbar sharks, six Galapagos sharks and 14 tiger sharks have produced high quality videos, which are now available for observation by researchers and shark lovers alike, around the world.

The discoveries and observations obtained from these videos were presented at the Ocean Sciences Meeting, last week in Honolulu. In the displayed videos, there were incredible shots of sharks swimming together in mixed groups and a male sandbar shark perusing a female.

While in the past, sharks have been misrepresented as dangerous predators towards humans, these camera wearing swimmers are giving new insights into their behavior and ocean life in general to show what these creatures are like when they are in their natural habitats, without human interference. While attacks on humans may be rare, sharks are however, deadly predators towards other marine life. They often have a tremendous impact on the food webs of the ecosystems that they venture into.

Carl Meyer, a marine biologist at the University of Hawaii says that he is amazed at the images they were able to retrieve; and amazed is no understatement. One of the primary reasons it has taken so long to obtain footage like this is because of the difficulty of both capturing it and getting the cameras back. The cameras were able to be attached thanks to a technique called “tonic immobility,” which means a shark that has been turned on its back goes into a harmless and calm state. After the sharks have filmed the necessary footage, the recording devices were retrieved via a VHF transmitter.

The results of the footage certainly provided some interesting insights into ocean life. For instance, Meyer has concluded that by staying within a group of sharks, it reduces the risk of being attacked by a bigger tiger shark that is making its way through. Sharks will also hunt together as a group and swim upwards in a tornado pattern until they have caught their prey, at which point they will break off and go their separate ways. The scientists were also able get an inside look at what shark’s digestive patterns are like.

Not only that, but these new findings have also clarified what shark’s movement patterns resemble. Marine biologists previously believed sharks to swim in a sort of gliding motion but thanks to the observations, it is now evident that sharks actually spend more time maneuvering through powered swimming. Additionally, the notion that deep-sea sharks often swim in a way that resembled slow-motion as compared to their counterparts that swim in more shallow water was also disproved.

Perhaps the most startling observation was the fact that tiger sharks are the biggest bullies of the pack, often preying on other shark species, which is why the smaller sharks often swim together in packs for the extra protection it provides. The cameras that these sharks have been wearing have certainly given new insight to ocean life. Now that this new method for obtaining such more detailed information and video footage exists, who knows what the next Shark Week has in store.

By Jonathan Holowka

Science Now
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