CAN’T TOUCH THIS! DRONE AERIAL VIDEO SHOWS IT’S ‘HAMMERHEAD’ TIME

Published Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Hammerhead Shark, Blacktip Sharks, Drones, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Southeast Florida, Shallow Waters, Animal Behavior, Predator-prey, The Great Escape, Drone Video, Fish Biology, Aerial Video

The hammerhead sharks in the videos were at least twice the size of the blacktip sharks making them about 12 feet long. They can get as big as 18 feet long. Despite their large size, they are often found in relatively shallow waters that are likely an important area for their feeding (Photo credit: Stephen Kajiura, Ph.D.).


BY GISELE GALOUSTIAN | 5/13/2020

It’s “hammerhead” time according aerial drone footage of blacktip sharks fleeing to shallow waters when confronted by a huge predator along the coast of southeast Florida. Footage from the drone provides the first evidence of adult blacktip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus) using shallow waters as a refuge from the great hammerhead shark, (Sphyrna mokarran)– proving you “can’t touch this.”  

Several juvenile shark species use shallow water nursery sites where the young can grow with a reduced risk of predation. However, prior to a study by Florida Atlantic University, no documentation was available to show that large adult sharks also swim in shallower waters to avoid predation.

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) enabled FAU scientists to unobtrusively observe and allow natural behaviors to be documented in the wild, providing insight into seldom-seen predator–prey interactions. Results of the study are published in the Journal Fish Biology .

The blacktip shark is both an agile predator of teleost fishes, cephalopods and crustaceans and a prey for larger sharks, such as the great hammerhead, which can get as big as 18 feet long. Despite their large size, hammerheads are often found in relatively shallow waters that are likely an important area for their feeding. Their prey typically includes stingrays, bony fishes and other sharks, so it is no surprise that they have been spotted in and around the blacktip shark aggregations, which provide an abundance of possible prey.

On three separate occasions, a UAV recorded footage of a hammerhead shark approaching an aggregation of blacktip sharks in the nearshore waters of Palm Beach County. The average length of the blacktips captured in the area is under 6 feet, which the researchers used to calibrate the scale in the video footage to estimate the distance from shore for these interactions. Based on this estimate, all videos were recorded less than 150 feet offshore of the beach, in water no more than waist deep.

In all three events, blacktip sharks used the shallow waters close to shore as a refuge from a great hammerhead. The hammerhead sharks in the videos were at least twice the size of the blacktip sharks making them approximately 12 feet long. The three separate videos were recorded during the day on Feb. 28, 2018, Feb. 28, 2019 and March 3, 2019.

 

Investors

#1 Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners Aerojet Rocketdyne Bank of America Bank United Baptist Health South Florida
Caler, Donten, Levine, Cohen, Porter & Veil, P.A. CareerSource DePuy Synthes Power Tools, a Johnson & Johnson Company Equestrian Center Florida Crystals Corporation
FPL Greenberg Traurig Gunster Hardrives, Inc. HCA Palm Beach Hospitals
Hedrick Brothers Construction Hospital for Special Surgery J.C. White JP Morgan Chase LRP Publications
Martens Group Minto Communities, LLC NCCI Nova Southeastern University Palm Beach Aggregates, LLC
Palm Beach Park of Commerce PNC Bank Pratt & Whitney (A United Technologies Company) Raymond James Financial Services/Boynton Financial Group, Inc. RSM
South Florida Business & Wealth Magazine South Florida Business Journal Stiles-Nicholson Foundation TD Bank Tortoise Properties
Wells Fargo & Company Wexford Capital