Wild Sharks Fitted With Video Recorders
The world is learning much more than ever before about the behavior of one of its most dreaded predators, thanks to the invention of new tracking technologies.
Researchers from the University of Hawaii and the University of Tokyo have outfitted sharks with advanced sensors and video recorders to measure and actually see where they are going, how they are moving and what they do once they reach their destinations.
The scientists, according to a press release issued by the American Geophysical Union, an international nonprofit that distributes information about and advocates for scientific research, have also piloted a project that employs probes ingested by sharks and other high-profile ocean hunters, like tuna, to better understand the creatures' feeding habits, including where, when, how much and on what they are preying.
"What we are doing is really trying to fill out the detail of what their role is in the ocean," Carl Meyer, an assistant researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said in the release. "It is all about getting a much deeper understanding of sharks' ecological role in the ocean, which is important to the health of the ocean and, by extension, to our own well-being."
Using sensors and video recorders, the researchers have so far captured unprecedented images of sharks from an array of different species swimming in schools, interacting with other fish and scanning areas of the sea bed with repetitive motions.
Team members have also discovered, contrary to what scientists previously thought, sharks tend to actively propel themselves through the water more than using passive gliding motions.
It's also been found deep-sea sharks swim in slow motion, compared to shallow water species.
"These instrument packages are like flight data recorders for sharks," Meyer said. "They allow us to quantify a variety of different things that we haven't been able to quantify before ... It has really drawn back the veil on what these animals do and answered some longstanding questions."
Since sharks are at the top of the ocean food chain, and a vital part of the marine ecosystem, knowing more about them will help scientists better understand the flow of energy through the ocean, Meyer said.
Until the new study, sharks had mainly been observed in captivity and had only been tracked to see where they traveled.
Meyer and Kim Holland, a researcher also at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, presented the study's latest findings at the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting, held last month in Honolulu.