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Preparing to launch: biologging reveals the dynamics of white shark breaching behaviour


Semmens, JM and Kock, AA and Watanabe, YY and Shepard, CM and Berkenpas, E and Stehfest, KM and Barnett, A and Payne, NL, Preparing to launch: biologging reveals the dynamics of white shark breaching behaviour, Marine Biology, 166, (7) Article 95. ISSN 0025-3162 (2019) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

DOI: doi:10.1007/s00227-019-3542-0


In comparison to other behaviours, large predators expend relatively large amounts of energy foraging for prey, based on expected high return. Documenting how they manage costs and benefits of feeding is difficult, particularly for marine predators. In July and August of 2004 and 2005, we combined animal-borne video, accelerometry and depth sensors to examine the underwater behaviour during white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) breaching at Seal Island, South Africa (34.1373S, 18.5825E)where sharks launch from the water while attacking Cape fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus). We show that breaching begins at depths up to 20m, is characterised by a brief (~ 7 to 16s) ascent to the surface during which pitch angle increases by ~ 30 and both tail-beat frequency and swim speed (determined using biomechanical principles) increase by a maximum of 6.5-fold (0.392.50Hz and 1.06.5ms−1, respectively). Sharks also demonstrated the ability to rapidly adjust their approach to the seal during ascent. Dominant tail-beat frequency during breaching was 2.14.2 times higher (0.831.67Hz) than during non-predatory ascents (0.4Hz), suggestive of the large increase in power required to breach. Examination of foraging behaviour through biologger deployments may play an increasingly important role in predicting the resource requirements of large predators and developing appropriate conservation measures, as their populations are generally under threat world-wide.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:biologging, white shark, breaching, Carcharodon carcharias, accelerometry
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Behavioural ecology
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Terrestrial systems and management
Objective Field:Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems
UTAS Author:Semmens, JM (Professor Jayson Semmens)
UTAS Author:Stehfest, KM (Dr Kilian Stehfest)
ID Code:134715
Year Published:2019
Web of Science® Times Cited:5
Deposited By:Sustainable Marine Research Collaboration
Deposited On:2019-08-29
Last Modified:2020-08-06

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