Since Jaws, great whites have been the most feared and admired sharks on the planet and now for the first time, you can watch one hunt in a kelp forest.
Getting close to an animal such as a great white is very challenging compared to a land based predator but PhD student Oliver Jewell of Murdoch University,Australia and his colleagues were able to attach cameras to sharks to study how they hunt off the coast of South Africa.
The researchers were able to tag eight sharks’ dorsal fins with cameras designed to pop off and float to the surface after a few hours to collect the data. The results, which were actually quite surprising, have been published in Biology Letters.
Researchers in the study learned that activity and turning rates significantly increased within kelp forest. Over 28 hours of video data revealed that white shark encounters with Cape fur seals occurred exclusively within kelp forests, with seals displaying predator evasion behaviour during those encounters.
Ten interactions with seals were recorded, all within dense kelp and all from a single shark (Shark 5). Seals were in groups of one to three individuals and responded to the presence of the shark by blowing bubbles, swimming deeper into kelp or hunkering to the seafloor. The shark responded by turning sharply, eventually pushing directly through kelp while increasing activity.
Although there was no signs of predation were captured on camera, the study demonstrated the importance and power of animal-borne video to improve our understanding of the habitat use of marine animals and the interactions these animals have in different habitats.
Kelp forests are threatened globally and face numerous threats including destructive fishing practices, coastal pollution, and accidental damage caused by boat entanglement are known to negatively affect kelp forests. Area based management is known to be an effective way to protect kelp forests from excessive use or harm by people