Wearable Technology…for Sharks? | NewsWatch Shark Week

By: Kassidy Coleman

Wearable technology is a great way to see how many steps you take, calories you burn, and track…SHARKS? That’s right, it’s looking like wearable technology is no longer limited to smart watches and fitness trackers for people. Researchers from James Cook University (JCU) have started a new study using wearable technology to further understand the activity patterns, eating habits, and the overall effects of ecotourism on sharks.


Of course getting the wearables onto the sharks is somewhat of a challenge. North east of Cairns on Osprey Reef researchers scuba dived and used a cage filled with tuna heads to lure the sharks to the area. When the sharks came around, the divers quickly placed the wearables around the sharks’ tails. Surprisingly, the technology itself really isn’t much different than the fitness bands we wear while working out.


Clearly, technology is getting advanced enough to completely change the way we study animals. Just in case you didn’t know, previous methods for studying sharks required actually getting sharks onto boats and implanting various trackers into them. Simply putting wearable technology on the shark while underwater is way less invasive and reduces the stress the sharks have to go through. Richard Fitzpatrick, a lead research of the study stated, “with these microcomputers, we’re able to put them on the shark underwater and then let them go again.”


Two weeks after the wearables were placed on the sharks, the research team returned to collect them. Which according to Fitzpatrick, catching those same sharks sounds a lot easier than it actually is. For the record, we don’t think catching a shark sounds like easy work.


Results from the study reflected that tourists feeding the sharks affect the sharks’ energy consumption. Osprey Reef, where the study was conducted, doesn’t have much of a problem with tourists feeding sharks, but there are parts of the world that do. Fitzpatrick stated, “This is the beginning of a whole new field of research looking at the metabolic rate and the energetic expenditure that sharks have…The pyramid of life that we’ve known about forever – that the big stuff eats the smaller stuff and so on – we can actually start putting numbers on that.”


What other technology that we use everyday could be used to enhance how we study sharks? Let us know in the comments below or join the conversation on Twitter!


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