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Today's Sharks: Smart, Tagged, and in Short Supply [Slide Show]

Research on sharks, and knowledge about them, is still just gaining speed as marine biologists race to learn about the cartilaginous predators before they are fished out of existence

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WIRED WATERS

The $168 million Ocean Tracking Network (OTN), headquartered at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, is "the next big thing" in shark tracking, Hueter says. The OTN combines archival and acoustic tags with a network of undersea receivers to create an "Internet of the ocean" that can collect data transmissions from passing great white sharks near Australia and Greenland as well as sharks in the Canadian Arctic and a dozen other pelagic regions all over the world.....[ More ]

LOOKING DOWN ON SHARKS

Tags that can transmit data via satellite are the tool of choice for current shark field research. "Pop-up archival tags" (PATs) collect continuous information on depth, pressure and time, then "pop" off the shark up to the surface, where they transmit the archived data in bulk.....[ More ]

SHARK DNA

"It's been a slow process for genetics to find a place in shark research," says Jennifer Schmidt of the University of Illinois at Chicago, who studies population genetics of whale sharks (a whale shark is shown here) in collaboration with the nonprofit Shark Research Institute.....[ More ]

SHARKS' AT THE ECOLOGICAL APEX

As "apex predators" of their ocean habitats, sharks play a vital role in maintaining the health of coral reefs, estuaries and coastal fisheries. When sharks are overfished, "trophic (nutritional) cascades" can result as their absence ripples through the food web in ways that are only beginning to be observed and understood.....[ More ]

FROM CONSTERNATION TO CONSERVATION

"Because they are out of sight and much harder to study than land animals, shark conservation has only really gotten going within the last 10 years," says Elizabeth Griffin, a marine scientist at Oceana.....[ More ]

CUTTING-EDGE CAMS

"High-tech cameras are a shark filmmaker's bread and butter, but in many cases they are equally important to the shark researcher," says Shark Week producer Jeff Kurr, who has been collaborating with marine biologists on documentaries for 20 years.....[ More ]

SHARK COGNITION

Samuel Gruber from the University of Miami and other researchers have been combating the image of sharks as "mindless death fish from hell," as he puts it, for decades. "Very little research [on shark cognitive behavior] has been done since the 1970s," Gruber says, "but these things go in cycles, and there is a lot of renewed interest in individual variation in sharks regarding their capacities for learning, remembering and behaving." Gruber cites sharks' high brain-to–body weight ratio as a clue that they might be more intelligent than we give them credit for.....[ More ]

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