Enterprising naturalists have strapped GoPros to nearly everything under the sun, but somehow sharks have eluded the fad.
The trusty researchers at the University of Hawaii and the University of Tokyo recently contrived a way to attach GoPro-like cameras to the fins of reef sharks -- and while the results aren't as visually stunning as, say, an eagle's footage, they are surprisingly illuminating.
"We're seeing behaviors that we simply couldn't see before," Carl Meyer, a researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, says of the data. In the past, Meyer notes, scientists could only track shark movements, but had little concept of what they were doing in each place.
The camera footage, along with a highly-sensitive instrument package, helps scientists understand the day in the life of a shark, especially how they move. Using accelerometers and magnetometers also attached to the fins, scientists are measuring the sharks' acceleration, the magnetic field around them, and the water depth and temperature.
The data has already disproven a couple of misconceptions about how sharks swim. "Unlike what scientists previously thought," says Engadget, "sharks power swim (rather than glide effortlessly) to traverse vast expanses of water, and deep sea species aren't lazy slowpokes compared to their shallow water brethren."
The study has also shown just how feared tiger sharks are among other sharks. A motley crew of sandbar sharks, blacktips, and hammerheads were shown to stick together -- forming a kind of tornado of sharks -- as a survival tactic against the larger tiger sharks in the area.
A digestible instrument has also been developed to provide a Magic School Bus-esque view into what sharks eat. According to a press release, "The instrument, which uses electrical measurements to track ingestion and digestion of prey, can help researchers understand where, when and how much sharks and other predators are eating, and what they are feasting on."
Next, the researchers plan on using the instruments with tiger sharks off the coast of Maui to better understand the unprecedented spike in shark attacks in the area and hope that the data helps inform public safety measures.
The data thus far, Meyer says, "has really drawn back the veil on what these animals do and answered some longstanding questions."