A new study has given humans a “shark’s eye” view of the world.
Cameras mounted and ingested by sharks show how the marine predators eat, swim and live. The research, carried out by scientists at the University of Hawaii and the University of Tokyo is the first to use sophisticated sensors and video equipment to track how sharks navigate the ocean’s waters.
"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 a statement. "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."
One video captured a sandbar shark in the morning at 300 feet below the ocean’s surface before joining a school of other sandbar sharks, ocean blacktips and scalloped hammerheads that "spiraled up like a shark tornado," Meyer told National Geographic.
Researchers found from the footage that sharks used powered swimming to navigate through the ocean rather than using smoother gliding motions. Deep sea sharks swam slower compared to species from shallower waters.
"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."
While tracking sharks has been done for years, the instruments used in the latest study are sensitive enough to create three-dimensional models of how sharks swim and how much energy they use. Accelerometers and magnetometers were able to determine the shark’s acceleration and magnetic field around it. Other instruments measured the ocean depth and water temperature.
The instruments that the animals ate tracked their ingestion and digestion of prey. This can help researchers understand when and how much and what exactly sharks and other predators are eating.
“It has really drawn back the veil on what these animals do and answered some longstanding questions,” Meyer said.