Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tweeting Sharks

shark16n-1-webScientists have tagged a massive great white shark off the Western coast of Australia. The female shark was estimated to be at least sixteen feet long and weigh a staggering 1.6 tons.
Great whites are impressive animals, considered highly intelligent with a curious nature and highly developed senses. They can reach up to twenty feet in length and over two tons in weight. Great whites can swim at speeds up to fifteen miles an hour and despite their size, can leap completely out of the water in pursuit of prey. These huge sharks have three hundred teeth arranged in seven rows. They have been known to attack humans and have killed a number of divers and swimmers off the Australian coast in the last several years.

Australia has received a lot of flack recently due to a culling program designed to keep swimmers and surfers safe from shark attacks. Critics point out that many shark species are at risk and, while the great white is not officially endangered, it is considered ‘vulnerable.’ Wildlife supports believe that alternatives to killing the sharks are needed to protect the species. Biologists have devised a tracking plan using acoustic tags surgically inserted into the sharks. The tags allow scientists to track the movements of sharks and should last for at least ten years per tag.

The great white, nicknamed “Joan” was tagged in King George Sound. Once the shark was hooked, fisheries staff had to attach ropes around it and roll it upside down. Rolling it over caused the shark to slip into a state of “tonic immobility,” similar to being asleep. Keeping the shark in the water, a small incision was made in its stomach and the tag was inserted.

Mark Kleeman, project head for the Shark Monitoring Network stated that tagging a great white of such size is unprecedented. He told the Newcastle Herald:

“This is very exciting and potentially a world first. Lots of juveniles get tagged, but to have a fully mature female and get 10 years data out of it is a big thing for us. We are excited by the potential of what this shark can give us.”

The tags are linked to a satellite network that includes over 320 seabed monitors to help record the movements of the sharks. Kleeman said that the program greatly improves the safety of Australian beaches and provides extensive data to scientists studying shark behavior.

“Over time we will be able to build the data and then we can see if there are any patterns forming, which is great for understanding more about them.”

This innovative program is another step to learning more about the mysteries of the ocean and the creatures that live there.
In a clever use of modern technology, the shark tagging program computers are now linked to a computer feed that sends out alerts via twitter. The tweet notifies people of the size, breed and approximate location of over 300 individual sharks now tagged by the program.



No comments:

Post a Comment