The REMUS SharkCam offered a new tool for scientists to observe great white shark's predatory behavior in its natural environment.
The great white shark is one of the most fearsome predators living in the depths. Researchers already know many things about this shark and its predatory behavior, but they lacked the ability to study shark’s behavior in its natural environment.
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A team of marine biologists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have used a new tool to better understand shark’s preying on other animals. The REMUS SharkCam, an autonomy underwater vehicle, offered researchers an exciting opportunity to see shark’s predatory behavior in the wild, in the depths and darkness of the oceans.
"We wanted to test the REMUS SharkCam technology to prove that is was a viable tool for observing marine animals—sharks in this case—and to collect substantial data about the animals' behavior and habitat.” Amy Kukulya, one of REMUS SharkCam's principal investigators said in a statement.
Using new vehicle, researchers tracked and filmed four great white sharks in the clear waters off Guadalupe Island in Mexico in November 2013. During the recording of 13-hour long footage, the vehicle was attacked by sharks on nine occasions as well. The footage shows how sharks suddenly came from below and bite aggressively the vehicle on the tail or mid-section. That was the same way sharks hunt seals at the depths of island’s water.
"Most of what we know about white shark predatory behavior comes from surface observations. We have all seen pictures or footage of sharks surging out of the water to capture a seal," said lead author Greg Skomal from Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.
"But we wanted to find out what was happening at depth—when the sharks swam into the deep, how were these animals behaving? Were they hunting? The REMUS AUV was the perfect tool to do this."
The REMUS vehicle, which is equipped with six cameras, was originally developed for coastal mapping and monitoring but now it has been utilized for a wide range of purposes. It provided scientists their first close up view of shark’s predatory behavior in real marine environment and revealed the previously unknown details about the strategies that sharks use for hunting their prey.
“The SharkCam groundbreaking technology offers a new and innovative tool for scientists to better understand the fine-scale behavior of marine animals," said principal investigator Amy Kukulya from WHOI. "There is currently no other method in the world that can get imagery of white sharks at depth in the open ocean. Not only do we get to see what they are doing, but we also know exactly where they are and collect data about the physical environmental in which they live."
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In the future, team is aiming to dive deeper off the island water and spend more duration to record fascinating behavior of sharks in more detail.