Jaws was right! If you see a shark moving at slow speeds it is probably ready for dinner
- National Institute of Polar Research in Japan tagged eight great white sharks
- They found they are one of the fastest fish when swimming for travel purposes
- When they are seen moving more slowly, however, chances are they are hungry.
- When close to a seal colony sharks were recorded moving much more sluggishly
If you see a shark moving at slow speeds it’s probably ready for dinner, confirming the behaviour of the predator in Stephen Spielberg’s cinematic masterpiece Jaws.
Scientists tagged eight great white sharks and found they are one of the fastest fish in the ocean when swimming for travel purposes.
But when the sharp-toothed predators are seen moving more slowly, chances are they are hungry.
When close to a seal colony, for example, sharks were recorded moving much more sluggishly than is energy-efficient.
Experts now believe they take their time to find the fattest and most delicious seal to snack on.
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If you see a shark moving at slow speeds it’s probably ready for dinner, confirming the behaviour of the predator in Stephen Spielberg’s cinematic masterpiece Jaws. Scientists who tagged eight great white sharks found they are one of the fastest fish in the ocean when swimming for travel purposes (file photo from Jaws)
Professor Yuuki Watanabe, who led the study from the National Institute of Polar Research in Japan, said: ‘This strategy is as close to a “sit-and-wait” strategy as is possible for perpetual swimmers, such as white sharks.’
Sharks famously have to constantly keep swimming to stay alive, as they are unable to pump water through their gills like bony fish. To get the oxygen they need from the water, they have to swim through it to force it through their gills.
Scientists wanted to know how fast sharks swim, so attached tags containing sensors on to eight great whites off the Neptune Islands in Australia.
They found ‘commuting’ sharks can race through the water as they travel between islands.
But sharks close to seal colonies move far more slowly, at a speed which actually costs them in terms of energy and is unexpected in relatively warm-blooded sharks.
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When the sharp-toothed predators are seen moving more slowly, chances are they are hungry. When close to a seal colony, for example, sharks were recorded moving much more sluggishly than is energy-efficient. Experts now believe they take their time to find the fattest and most delicious seal to snack on (file photo from Jaws)
The results suggest that predatory white sharks are wily hunters like bats and largemouth bass, which lurk near seals in the hopes of catching a nice fat snack.
Catching an energy-rich seal is worth hundreds of the fish and squid that great whites also feed on.
It makes sense to wait around to give the seals, which are able to manoeuvre extremely well, less chance to escape.
The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, states: ‘Overall, our results support our hypothesis that white sharks aggregating near seal colonies adopt slow speeds that may be optimised to increase encounter rates with fast-swimming seals while reducing swimming costs.’
The study, which tracked the sharks for up to 37 hours each, means the menacing pace of the shark in Jaws, accompanied by its slow, frightening soundtrack, may actually be true to life.
Even though great white sharks are capable of swimming fast thanks to their warm muscles, living fast may not always be a benefit when waiting for dinner.
HOW SHARKS EARNED THEIR RUTHLESS REPUTATION
Sharks are the most efficient predators on earth and have long terrified humans.
Their basic design has never really changed over the course of 200million years and they are considered to be complex and intelligent.
Their teeth are fear factor number one, with the great white’s teeth growing up to two-and-a-half inches in length.
Their prey are impaled on the pointed teeth of the lower jaw where they saw away sections of the flesh. The serrated edges of the teeth help with this process.
Their teeth are brittle and are constantly breaking off but are also constantly regrowing and on average there are 15 rows of teeth present in the mouth at one time.
Sharks are the most efficient predators on earth. Their basic design has never really changed over the course of 200million years
Their speed is fear factor number two.
They are very fast in the water compared to humans with the mako shark able to reach an incredible 60mph in bursts.
The great white can reach speeds of 25mph.
By comparison, 5mph is the fastest a human being can reach.
A shark’s power and size terrifies us, too.
The great white shark can grow up to 20 feet and while it has no particular taste for humans even an exploratory bite is enough to cut a man in half.
Most sharks release a human after its first bite but sometimes, that’s all it take to kill a person.
However, sharks have far more reason to be afraid of humans. We kill up to a million of them a year, often just cutting off their fins to make into soup and throwing the rest of the shark back into the water, where it starves or drowns.
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