Just as this kid is climbing out of the water into the boat clutching a fish that they have caught, a shark decides that it would quite like the fish itself! As the video at the bottom of this page shows, sharks are very good at sneaking up on things in the water!
Sharks As Successful Predators
We don’t know the species of this particular shark but it is clearly very interested in the fish! As a carnivore, this shark must be able to detect prey in and on the water so that it can launch an attack. To enable them to do this, many sharks have complex brains that enable them to process information from many senses at the same time.
How Do Sharks Use Sight And Smell To Find Prey?
Light does not travel as well through water as it does through the air and so seeing things at a distance is always going to be a challenge. Therefore, a shark relies on its other senses until the prey is around 50 feet away. Nevertheless, it has some useful eyesight adaptations that assist with hunting. The eyes are positioned on the side of their head so they are able to see nearly all around them. Similar to cats, they have a reflective layer of shiny cells called the ‘tapetum lucidum’ which improves vision in low light conditions. It’s particularly helpful for species that hunt in deep water and at night when light is minimal.
In contrast, smell is hugely important to sharks and up to two-thirds of the total weight of their brain is employed in interpreting smells. In this way, they are able to detect prey, potential predators and potential mates. Some species have super smell detection and can detect one part of blood in one million parts of water.
Sharks Using Sound, Touch, And Taste
Some sharks are great at picking up low-frequency signals allowing them to track wounded prey. They may have nerve endings in their skin and pressure-sensitive nerves in their teeth. Some species use a ‘test bite’ to get more information but this can prove fatal for the creature on the receiving end!
Finally, they have a complex electro-sensory system involving organs called the ampullae of Lorenzini. We are still learning how these help sharks to detect prey and to navigate their migration journeys.
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