"Shark's eye" cameras are now a reality. Using this new system, researchers were able to get a view of the world from cameras attached to the fins of the fearsome fish.
The cameras reveal how reef sharks live, eat and mate in their watery environment near Hawaii.
A few of the cameras were designed to be eaten by the large fish, giving scientists a chance to see their digestive process from the inside.
"What we are doing is really trying to fill out the detail of what their role is in the ocean. 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" Carl Meyer, from the University of Hawaii, said in a statement.
Researchers from the University of Hawaii and the University of Tokyo participated in this unique study. Although cameras have tracked sharks in the past, this was the first time such sophisticated equipment was used in such a study. Using accelerometers and magnetometers, scientists were able to create the first 3D map showing how sharks travel.
They uncovered several facts about sharks that were never known before now. The animals will occasionally join with a large group of different varieties of shark at great depths, and begin spiraling around each other. They rise up through the water like a shark tornado. The biologists also discovered the animals usually use their fins to power themselves through the water, rather than take advantage of natural currents in the water. The also noted sharks who live in shallower waters swim more quickly then their cousins from greater depths.
Because sharks are top-level predators in marine environments, the new findings may help biologists better understand the marine eco-system. Most research conducted on sharks so far has investigated the predators in captivity.
"These instrument packages are like flight data recorders for sharks. 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," Meyer wrote.
Similar devices may soon be used on other top-level feeders, including tuna, in order to get a better understanding of how the animals interact with each other and the environment.
Findings from the new study were presented at the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting in Honolulu.