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Sharks Combine All Their Senses While Hunting

Update Date: Apr 03, 2014 12:08 PM EDT

Sharks being truly complete predators use all their senses while hunting, a new study has suggested.

The study sought to better understand how the predator's vision, touch, smell and other senses combined and guided it while choosing the prey.

The results demonstrated that sharks with different lifestyles may prefer different senses but can also sometimes switch to other use when their preferred senses are blocked. 

"Our findings may surprise a lot of people," said Jayne Gardiner, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at Mote, whose doctoral thesis included the current study, in a press release. "The general public often hears that sharks are all about the smell of prey, that they're like big swimming noses. In the scientific community it has been suggested that some sharks, like blacktips, are strongly visual feeders. But in this study, what impressed us most was not one particular sense, but the sharks' ability to switch between multiple senses and the flexibility of their behavior."

Researchers pointed that knowing how sharks sense and interact with their environments is critical as it could be an important parameter to consider while trying to sustain their population. 

"This is landmark work," said co-author Jelle Atema, a professor of biology at Boston University and an adjunct scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, according to Latin Post. "Back in 1985, world experts in underwater animal senses met at Mote, and at that time we emphasized that sensory studies were focusing on one animal at a time, one sense at a time, and we needed to start combining this information. Now we have."

The study was supported by the National Science Foundation and its findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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