Subsurface observations of white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) predatory behaviour using an autonomous underwater vehicle

G. B. Skomal, E. M. Hoyos-Padilla, A. Kukulya and R. Stokey

 

Journal of Fish Biology, 2015, 87:1293–1312.

 

DOI: https://doi.org//10.1111/jfb.12828

 

Abstract

 

In this study, an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) was used to test this technology as a viable tool for directly observing the behaviour of marine animals and to investigate the behaviour, habitat use and feeding ecology of white sharks Carcharodon carcharias near Guadalupe Island off the coast of Mexico. During the period 31 October to 7 November 2013, six AUV missions were conducted to track one male and three female C. carcharias, ranging in estimated total length (LT) from 3⋅9 to 5⋅7 m, off the north-east coast of Guadalupe Island. In doing so, the AUV generated over 13 h of behavioural data for C. carcharias at depths down to 90 m. The sharks remained in the area for the duration of each mission and moved through broad depth and temperature ranges from the surface to 163⋅8 m depth (mean±s.d.=112⋅5±40⋅3 m) and 7⋅9–27⋅1∘ C (mean±s.d.=12⋅7±2⋅9∘ C), respectively. Video footage and AUV sensor data revealed that two of the C. carcharias being tracked and eight other C. carcharias in the area approached (n=17), bumped (n=4) and bit (n=9) the AUV during these tracks. This study demonstrated that an AUV can be used to effectively track and observe the behaviour of a large pelagic animal, C. carcharias. In doing so, the first observations of subsurface predatory behaviour were generated for this species. At its current state of development, this technology clearly offers a new and innovative tool for tracking the fine-scale behaviour of marine animals.

 

Keywords

 

AUV, Feeding ecology, Guadalupe Island, REMUS, Tracking

 

 

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