Saturday, May 29, 2010

Vertical Migration: A Hunting Tactic of the Blue Shark

The blue shark, Prionace glauca, is a common species found throughout tropical and temperate oceans. This shark is often considered to be a surface dwelling fish of the open sea, but it is also commonly found in the dark waters of the continental shelf, swimming into the sunless depths. In this study acoustic telemetry was used to follow 22 blue sharks over the continental shelf and slope, between George's Bank and Cape Hatteras, in the North Atlantic, between 1979 and 1986.

One of the most interesting points of the paper was the authors explanation for their movement patterns. Sharks exhibited highly predictable vertical migrations over several hundred meters. Most sharks, including the blue shark, have strong chemosensory capabilities. In the ocean olfactory cues would be better distributed along the horizontal plane due to the current shear between layers of differing density. Thus, an olfactory stimulus will spread as a radiating disk. By moving vertically through the ocean the sharks would significantly increase the odds of encountering such an odour trace and this is what was observed.

Carey, F., Scharold, J., & Kalmijn, A. (1990). Movements of blue sharks (Prionace glauca) in depth and course Marine Biology, 106 (3), 329-342 DOI: 10.1007/BF01344309

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