Sharks outfitted with wearable computers give scientists a better understanding of their movement
Tagging sharks to monitor their movements is nothing new, in fact, through organizations like OCEARCH, it has helped us learn a lot more about the threatened species and their behavior. Now scientists have taken tagging a bit further by using a gadget made up of sophisticated sensors and a video camera to get a sharks-eye-view of the ocean.
Researchers at University of Hawaii and University of Tokyo created the rig to see where sharks are going, how they are getting there, and what they are doing once they reach their destinations.
"What we are doing is really trying to fill out the detail of what their role is in the ocean,” said Carl Meyer, an assistant researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. “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.”
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The gadget has already disproved some misconceptions about the way sharks travel, for instance, they found that sharks used powered swimming more often than a gliding motion, which is contrary to what scientists previously thought. They also found that deep-sea sharks swim in slow motion compared to shallow water sharks.
“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,” he added.
Next up for the research team is creating an ingestible device that would help them to understand the sharks' diets and feeding patterns. The instruments track ingestion and digestion of prey and can help researchers understand where, when, what and how much sharks are eating.
Check out the video below to get a glimpse of that shark's eye view.