Underwater Robots Investigate Great White Sharks' Pedatory Behavior

First Posted: Jan 12, 2016 12:32 PM EST

Robotic, underwater vehicles may give researchers a new tool to better understand shark behavior. These robots may be able to travel where humans cannot in order to show scientists how sharks behave in the wild.

In this latest study, the researchers used the REMUS SharkCam. This autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) was used during a science expedition in order to better study white shark behavior.

"We wanted to test the REMUS SharkCam technology to prove that it was a viable tool for observing marine animals-sharks in this case-and to collet substantial data about the animals's behavior and habitat," said Amy Kukulya, one of the principal investigators, in a news release.

The researchers conducted six AUV missions over seven days in November 2013. During this time period, the scientists tagged and tracked four sharks over six days using REMUS SharkCam, collecting over 13 hour of video data. In all, the researchers tracked one male and three female great white sharks, including one named Deep Blue, who stretches an amazing 21 feet.

"Most of what we know about white shark predator behavior comes from surface observations," said Greg Skomal, one of the researchers, in a news release. "We have all seen pictures or footage of sharks surging out of the water to capture a seal. 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 researchers found that sharks tended to bump the vehicle and bite it. The bumps were thought to be aggressive behavior consisting of contact, usually with the shark nudging the vehicle with its snout. The bites were interpreted as predator behavior, which happened toward the rear of the vehicle.

The new finding may tell researchers a bit more about these sharks. In the future, the scientists plan to schedule deeper dives for the robot.

The findings are published in the Journal of Fish Biology.

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