Image via video screengrab
Mike Rutzen has an extra special relationship with sharks, and he's working hard to show the world they're really amazing, approachable creatures. Rather than the character out of Jaws, Great Whites are actually smart, sometimes shy, and highly effective hunters. But unfortunately the world is only just starting to understand sharks as key predators in our oceans, that come complete with unique personalities and an understandable body language. Rutzen has decided that there's one way to show just how approachable and readable sharks are - put them into tonic immobility, a natural state of paralysis. Watch him set a shark vertically on its nose under water and hold it there with just one hand. Rutzen says that by showing he can put sharks in tonic immobility, he also demonstrates that if you understand their body language well enough, you can get along with sharks just fine and say out of harm's way. He has spent more time diving with Great White sharks outside of cages than anyone else, and if that doesn't prove his point, well, perhaps only setting sharks into tonic immobility will.
Rutzen shows off his understanding of sharks in an Animal Planet show called Sharkman, and hopefully has been able to reach viewers who wouldn't otherwise understand how important sharks are to our ecosystems, and how fragile their existence currently is. He was also on the TED Mission Blue Voyage in the Galapagos, which put some of our top marine scientists and activists in one place for discussing how to save our oceans.
Remember that tonic immobility is also a hunting trick of Orca whales, and is how one whale killed a great white shark off the California coast. There is extraordinary video footage of that handy hunting trick as well.
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