A study carried out by the University of Exeter and NGO Beneath the Waves reveals an impressive range of skills nurse sharks use when eating, including ‘pectoral positioning’
Sharks appear to ‘walk’ on the sea floor while feeding (Image: Kristian Parton et al./SWNS)
Sharks have been filmed apparently “walking” on the sea floor as part of a new scientific study.
A team of researchers used underwater cameras to monitor the movements and behaviour of the creatures when feeding.
The study, which was carried out underwater off the Turks and Caicos Islands, revealed the impressive range of skills nurse sharks use when eating.
Researchers from the University of Exeter and NGO Beneath the Waves identified several feeding behaviours used by the sharks.
These included vertical feeding (head down), ventral feeding (belly up) and “pectoral positioning”, which sees sharks flexing their pectoral fins in a motion similar to “walking” on the sea floor.
They flex pectoral fins in a motion similar to ‘walking’ on the sea floor ( Image: Kristian Parton et al./SWNS)
Lead author Kristian Parton, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall, said: “These feeding behaviours show that nurse sharks are adapted to feed on different prey across a variety of habitats.”
While most shark species have little movement in their pectoral fins, nurse sharks are related to epaulette sharks, which can “walk” on dry land using these fins.
The study was carried out off the Turks and Caicos Islands ( Image: Kristian Parton et al./SWNS)
Parton added: “Our footage suggests nurse sharks may do something similar on the sea floor.”
“This work illustrates the immense behavioural adaptability of coastal shark species,” noted Dr Oliver Shipley, Senior Research Scientist at Beneath The Waves.
A shark vertical feeding (head down) ( Image: Kristian Parton et al./SWNS)
“Despite their widespread nature, we know comparatively little about nurse shark behaviour relative to other coastal species, so this study provides an important step to further understanding their ecological role.”
The team say previous research on nurse sharks has mostly focused on their reproductive behaviour.
Underwater cameras have revealed the impressive range of skills nurse sharks use when feeding ( Image: Kristian Parton et al./SWNS)
However, this new research helps shine a light on the important role nurse sharks play on tropical reefs around the world.
The paper, published in the journal Environmental Biology of Fishes, is entitled ‘Opportunistic camera surveys provide insight into discrete foraging behaviours in nurse sharks (Ginglymostoma cirratum)’.