The Safina Center

May 16th
2013

Heads Up!

Blue Ocean Fellow, Dr. Demian Chapman, is in The Bahamas right now catching, tagging and releasing oceanic whitetip sharks. Here is his latest dispatch:

Heads up! Sharks are not known for popping their heads out of the water, but I have noticed that it is quite common for oceanic whitetips to do this.

Oceanic whitetip shark. Photo by Demian Chapman.

Common behavior for oceanic whitetip sharks. Photo by Demian Chapman.

Is it akin to spy-hopping behavior of killer whales or great white sharks? Probably not, because these two apex predators use spy-hopping to see prey that spend part of their time or land or ice, such as seals. Oceanic whitetips feed on prey that live exclusively underwater, like fish and squid.

I remember reading a paper by a Russian scientist who speculated that oceanic whitetips pick up scents in the air and that they may spy-hop to pick up windborne scents of floating animal carcasses.  Who knows? We are free to speculate. One of the crew suggests the sharks are trying to startle us and make us fall in the water!

The oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus) is one of the “CITES 5″ shark species that were given increased protection at the March 2013 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora meeting in Bangkok. Demain and his crew are fitting the sharks with pop-off satellite archival tags (PSATs) to track the sharks and learn about their migratory patterns. This will help scientists assess and conserve oceanic whitetip populations.

Stay tuned for more dispatches from The Bahamas!
See Dispatch #1 – Even Sharks Like Sushi

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