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Feb 28, 2014 09:47 AM EST

'Shark's Eye' Cameras and Sensors Reveal Never-Before-Seen Details Of Ocean's Top Predator (VIDEO)


In a new study, scientists are researching how sharks live and eat based on data from cameras tied to the ocean creatures and which have been ingested.

Researchers from the Universities of Hawaii and Tokyo, for the first time, are tracking sharks with specialized sensors and cameras, including ones that are meant to be swallowed. Sharks are one of the most misunderstood marine animals and little is known about them because of how fearsome they can be.

"What we are doing is really trying to fill out the detail of what their role is in the ocean," Carl Meyer, an assistant researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said in a press release. "It is all about getting a much deeper understanding of sharks' ecological role in the ocean, which is important to the health of the ocean and, by extension, to our own well-being."

The sensors swallowed by the sharks are meant to detail the creature's feeding habits. They use electrical components to track and measure ingestion and digestion. The idea for the study on the whole is to give the researchers a "shark's eye" view of the ocean, since so little is known about them.

"These instrument packages are like flight data recorders for sharks," Meyer said in the release. "They allow us to quantify a variety of different things that we haven't been able to quantify before.

"It has really drawn back the veil on what these animals do and answered some longstanding questions."

Meyer and fellow UH - Manoa colleague Kim Holland now have footage of different shark species swimming in school, interacting with other fish and moving in a repetitive pattern on the sea bed. Also, they found that some sharks swam in a powered manner, rather than how many believed they mostly glided through the water.

Meyer said this study is important because sharks are at the top of the food chain in the ocean and are therefore important to the ecosystem. They have also been mostly observed in captivity until this point.

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