4 Amazing Shark Stories to Enjoy This Shark Week
It's shark week, that seven day period every summer when our television screens swim with stories of one of the ocean's most fascinating residents. But sharks make headlines all year round. Here are some of the coolest shark stories EcoWatch has come across this summer.
1. Be Careful What You Fish For
Fishers off Cape Cod, Massachusetts had some fierce competition Saturday, July 20 when a great white shark jumped out of the water and bit a bass they had caught off their line, The Cape Cod Times reported.
"It just left everyone in awe," Columbia Sportfishing vessel Captain Marc Costa said.
"Good reminder that they don't just eat seals and always be cautious when retrieving your catch," the @MA_Sharks Twitter account wrote of the incident.
The video of the encounter was tweeted by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.
2. California Dreaming
Great white sharks have increased their numbers in Cape Cod in recent years. But they have also made a surprising home on the other side of the country.
Some juvenile specimen of the ocean's largest predatory fish have been spending more time in California's Monterey Bay, The Guardian reported Friday. Usually, the young sharks are found in the waters off Southern California, near Mexico, but they have begun to move further north in recent years, leading to more sightings in Monterey Bay starting in 2014.
Scientists think the climate crisis might be behind the move, prompting the sharks to move north as water temperatures warm.
"White sharks are endotherms — they have a warmer internal temperature, which makes them more like mammals than fish," Monterey Bay Aquarium senior research scientist Sal Jorgensen told The Guardian. "Especially when they're first born, they have to stay in a Goldilocks temperature range that's not too hot and not too cold."
The sharks have drawn the attention of local residents, who have dubbed their favorite stretch of coast "Shark Park," Specialized Helicopters pilot Chris Gularte told KPIX 5 when he flew reporters over the Bay on Tuesday July 16. You can watch a video of the trip here:
3. Baby Shark
Not all sharks are large predators. Scientists discovered a new species of shark in the Gulf of Mexico that is only five-and-a-half inches long.
The American Pocket Shark (Mollisquama mississippiensis) was first captured in the Gulf in 2010 and identified as a new species in a recent Zootaxa article, Tulane University reported. The only other pocket shark was found in the Eastern Pacific in 1979, and scientists confirmed the two were different species.
"In the history of fisheries science, only two pocket sharks have ever been captured or reported," study author Mark Grace of the National Marine Fisheries Service Mississippi Laboratories of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in the press release. "Both are separate species, each from separate oceans. Both are exceedingly rare."
The pocket sharks have small pockets that secrete a glowing liquid, allowing them to glow in the dark and attract prey, People Magazine reported.
“The fact that only one pocket shark has ever been reported from the Gulf of Mexico, and that it is a new species, underscores how little we know about the Gulf." - Henry Bart, director of the #Tulane Biodiversity Research Institutehttps://t.co/OsODER047l— Tulane University (@Tulane) July 19, 2019
4. Deep Blue Sea
Researchers had an incredible encounter with another rare shark in the Gulf of Mexico this summer.
Shark expert Gavin Naylor of the Florida Museum of Natural History was on a submarine dive to tag the bluntnose sixgill, a shark species older than most dinosaurs, when one of the ancient animals swam up to his vessel.
"I'm literally nose to nose with this animal," Naylor told Live Science.
That particular fish was too close to tag, but the researchers managed to tag another one, marking the first time scientists have tagged an animal from a submarine. The bluntnose sixgill is the world's oldest shark species and swims 2,500 to 3,500 feet below the ocean. Previous attempts to tag them by bringing them to the surface had caused the sharks to act strangely. This deep sea tag should help researchers better understand their behavior.
More footage of six-gill at 528 meters from inside the sub last saturday. This sequence was taken by Lee Frey, our multi-talented sub pilot/engineer/inventor who designed the solenoid triggered spear guns for sub-based tagging. Thanks again to the entire OceanX team. Amazing.. pic.twitter.com/hnW4hQLhm7— Gavin Naylor (@gavinnaylor) July 2, 2019
The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.
"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."
The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.
They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.
They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.
But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.
"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.
What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.
It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.
To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.
First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.
Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.
University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.
"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."
Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.
"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.
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