Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Great white sharks scavenging on dead whales

Date:
April 10, 2013
Source:
University of Miami
Summary:
Biologists have explored the behaviors of Great white sharks scavenging on dead whales in South Africa. The team documented as many as 40 different sharks scavenging on a carcass over the course of a single day, revealing unique social interactions among sharks.

Scientists have explored the behaviors of Great white sharks scavenging on dead whales in South Africa.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Miami

Many terrestrial animals are frequently observed scavenging on other animals- whether it is a hyena stealing a lion kill in the Serengeti or a buzzard swooping down on a dead animal. However, documenting this sort of activity in the oceans is especially difficult, and often overlooked in marine food web studies.

Related Articles


In a new study published in PLOS ONE titled, "White sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) scavenging on whales and its potential role in further shaping the ecology of an apex predator," Captain Chris Fallows from Apex Expeditions collaborated with University of Miami (UM) scientists Dr. Neil Hammerschlag and Austin Gallagher, to explore the behaviors of Great white sharks scavenging on dead whales in South Africa. The team documented as many as 40 different sharks scavenging on a carcass over the course of a single day, revealing unique social interactions among sharks.

The study summarized observations based on four scavenging events opportunistically observed over a 10 year period. In each multi-day observation, the team recorded daily evidence of social, aggregative and feeding behaviors observed in the waters off South Africa. They suggest that although the occurrence of coming upon a whale carcass may be sporadic, the shark populations are likely prepared to scavenge on them, and may even rely on their scavenging activities to supplement their regular feeding activities.

"Although rarely seen, we suspect that as white sharks mature, scavenging on whales becomes more prevalent and significant to these species than previously thought," said Hammerschlag, who is director of the R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program at UM.

The team found that sharks showed a clear preference for scavenging on the blubber, probably because these high calorie meals can sustain the sharks for longer periods of time. Interestingly, though, the study also found that sharks showed an initial preference for feeding on the whale's fluke before moving on to feed on the rest of the carcass. The team also found that while scavenging on whales, they ceased hunting and feeding on seals, one of their primary natural prey.

"While scavenging on the whale, the sharks clearly showed a size-based pecking order," said Fallows. "The biggest sharks came right in, targeting areas of highest blubber content, while smaller sharks fed on areas with less blubber or kept their distance from the whale, mostly scavenging on pieces of blubber that drifted away from the carcass."

The paper reveals how the social and size structure of sharks at the carcass appeared to be influenced by environmental patterns. "The cues, such as the oils, emanating from this pulse of food are likely attracting much larger sharks over 4.5 meters from long distances to scavenge," said Gallagher. "These data provide some credence to the hypothesis that large white sharks may be swimming known ocean corridors looking for dead, dying, or vulnerable whales."

"By attracting many large white sharks together to scavenge, we suspect that the appearance of a whale carcass can play a role in shaping the behaviors, movements, and the ecosystem impacts of white sharks" said Hammerschlag. "These patterns may shed some light into the ecology of this often studied -- yet still highly enigmatic -- marine predator."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Miami. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Chris Fallows, Austin J. Gallagher, Neil Hammerschlag. White Sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) Scavenging on Whales and Its Potential Role in Further Shaping the Ecology of an Apex Predator. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (4): e60797 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0060797

Cite This Page:

University of Miami. "Great white sharks scavenging on dead whales." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130410141530.htm>.
University of Miami. (2013, April 10). Great white sharks scavenging on dead whales. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130410141530.htm
University of Miami. "Great white sharks scavenging on dead whales." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130410141530.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins