Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Employing criminal investigation techniques to locate shark attacks in the wild

23.06.2009
Paper in Journal of Zoology: From Jack The Ripper To Great Whites ...

Predation is one of the most fundamental and fascinating interactions in nature, and sharks are some of the fiercest predators on Earth. However, their hunting pattern is difficult to study because it is rarely observed in the wild.

As a result, shark predatory behavior has remained much of a mystery. Now, researchers from the United States and Canada are using geographic profiling -- a criminal investigation tool used to track a connected series of crimes and locate where serial criminals live -- to examine the hunting patterns of white sharks in South Africa.

Using this tool, scientists looked at the predatory interactions between white sharks and Cape fur seals at Seal Island in False Bay, South Africa. They found that sharks possess a well-defined anchor point or search base for hunting, but not where the chances of prey interception were greatest. Instead the attacks seemed to take place at strategic locations that could offer a balance of prey detection, capture rates, and inter-shark competition. “The study expands our knowledge of how large predators hunt and offers a new scientific reference for studying other predator-prey systems,” explained Neil Hammerschlag, Ph.D. candidate at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and co-principal investigator of the study.

“Sharks are apex predators, so studies of shark hunting behavior are important for understanding their ecology and role in structuring marine communities,” said Hammerschlag. “Our need for more knowledge of these fascinating animals has become critical because of recent drastic declines in their populations globally.”

In an awesome display of power and acrobatic prowess, white sharks attack prey with a sudden vertical rush that propels them out of the water. “They hunt solitary juvenile Cape fur seals when light levels are low, stalking them from near the ocean floor to remain undetected, before launching a vertical attack,” Hammerschlag said. “This strategy maximizes a shark’s chances of catching a seal unaware thus initiating a fatal first strike. Stealth and ambush are key elements in the white shark’s predatory strategy.”

Hammerschlag and his collaborators from the University of British Columbia and Texas State University collected data on 340 natural predatory attacks by sharks on seals in False Bay. They were able to observe natural predation by great white sharks because attacks occur at the water’s surface where they can be seen from a distance. The researchers found that spatial patterns of shark predation at this site were nonrandom and that smaller sharks had more dispersed prey search patterns and lower kill success rates than larger sharks.

This could mean that white sharks refine their search patterns with experience, and learn to concentrate hunting efforts in locations with the highest probability of successful prey capture. It might also suggest that larger sharks competitively exclude smaller sharks from the prime hunting areas. The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Zoology and is now available as an advance online publication of the journal.

The study uses geographic profiling for the first time in the marine environment. The technology was originally developed by study co-author Dr. Kim Rossmo of Texas State University to determine the most probable area for a criminal offender’s residence or anchor point, and has been used in a number of high-profile police investigations internationally.

In addition to applications in law enforcement, geographic profiling has also been applied to studies of the foraging behavior of bats and bumblebees, the spread of infectious diseases in Africa, and the structure of terrorist cells in the Middle East. For more information about geographic profiling visit: www.txstate.edu/gii

The University of Miami is the largest private research institution in the southeastern United States. The University’s mission is to provide quality education, attract and retain outstanding students, support the faculty and their research, and build an endowment for University initiatives. www.miami.edu

Founded in the 1940’s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world's premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, please visit www.rsmas.miami.edu

Media Contacts:
Barbra Gonzalez
UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
305.421.4704
barbgo@rsmas.miami.edu
Mark Hendricks, Assistant Director of University News
Texas State University
(512) 245 2180
Mh06@txstate.edu

Barbra Gonzalez | RSMAS Miami
Further information:
http://www.rsmas.miami.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling of PET Bottles: New Ideas for Resource Cycles in Germany
25.06.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Betriebsfestigkeit und Systemzuverlässigkeit LBF

nachricht Dry landscapes can increase disease transmission
20.06.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Behavior-influencing policies are critical for mass market success of low carbon vehicles

17.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Plant mothers talk to their embryos via the hormone auxin

17.07.2018 | Life Sciences

Subaru Telescope helps pinpoint origin of ultra-high energy neutrino

16.07.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>