Last updated April 5, 2019 at 3:16 pm
Scientists have put cameras on Great White Sharks to see them hunting in kelp for the first time.
For years we’ve been shown terrifying footage of sharks bearing down on prey, about to strike and eat a hapless seal.
But now for the first time, we can see the shark’s perspective.
Scientists have attached cameras to Great White Sharks, letting us see what a shark sees during while they hunt seals.
Swooping through kelp forests and making surprisingly tight turns, the rollercoaster ride shows the power and surprisingly agility of the apex predator.
However, beyond just being an exhilarating ride, the footage has challenged scientists understanding of how sharks hunt prey.
Changing our idea of a shark hunt
Previously, experts thought that sharks usually stayed around the edges of kelp forests at dusk and dawn. As prey emerged into the open seas the shark’s power would then make them easy picking.
What the footage, captured by Oliver Jewell from Murdoch University and an international group of researchers, showed instead was sharks entering the kelp, navigating through tight channels and barging through large stipes and fronds. The density of the kelp forests were thought to be inaccessible to the large predator.
“The film we collected gives us a new perspective on this species. We can see how they interact with their surroundings in real time, and they are able to make some pretty spectacular 180 degree turns in the kelp forest,” Mr Jewell said.
“In the past we would have to guess. We would track sharks to the edge of the kelp forest but then lose the signal. Being able to see what these fish do in this habitat helps to bring another layer of understanding to the behaviour of these ocean giants.”
No successful hunts recorded
The sharks did spot several fur seals amongst the kelp, with the seals responding with evasion strategies such as hunkering together and blowing bubbles at the shark. Disappointingly (for both the researchers and sharks no doubt), in over 28 hours of footage there weren’t any successful hunts.
To the scientists this creates an interesting scenario. While the sharks are versatile enough to enter the kelp forests, the kelp still provides enough refuge to help the seals evade predators. However, they say more footage will be required to understand the relative benefits of the kelp for each animal.
The sharks were recorded off the coast of South Africa. The camera tags were designed to stay on the sharks for a set number of hours before popping off and floating to the surface.
A full analysis will be published by the researchers in Biology Letters.