Nature Video

By Mike Jones

 

Here’s a baby shark you’ll never get tired of watching – this incredible pregnancy scan shows a tiny baby shark wriggling around while still INSIDE the womb.

The astounding images and footage were captured by a team of experts studying shark conservation who set out to discover why so many Tiger Sharks were swarming to a particular beach.

Using state-of-the-art technology, the team, led by Shark expert Dr Neil Hammerschlag, the Director of the Shark Research and Conversation Program at the University of Miami, and professor of Marine Biology at Arizona State University, Dr. James Sulikowski, managed to catch and scan five of sharks while out in the wild.

The team of eight people caught the sharks while sailing in Tiger Shark Bay, in the Bahamas, and, holding the shark close to their boat using straps, Dr Sulikowski used a portable ultrasound to scan the animals, while instantly looking at the results on a VR style headset.

The expedition, which took place in December gave valuable insight into the movement of sharks and will help in their conservation.

Dr Sulikowski said: “Performing the scans was absolutely incredible.

“It’s mind blowing to know I am using technology  that was once confined to a laboratory setting to see if a shark is pregnant in the field.

“To see baby sharks within the mother is like Christmas morning for me, that excitement never gets old.

“Its incredibility difficult to keep everything steady sometimes. We often get soaked.”

High numbers of Tiger Sharks had been reported in a bay which had come to be known locally as Tiger Shark Bay, popular with tourists and divers.

The experts feared that the increase in number of sharks in the area during certain months was a behaviour influenced by humans, as the sharks are purposely fed there so tourists can dive by them.

Dr Hammerschlag explained: “Tiger sharks at TB are fed by scuba divers year-round to lure tiger sharks within close proximity of dive tourists.  I wanted to know if the movements of tiger sharks were impacted by the dive tourism.

“This led me to wonder what the other possible reasons that tiger sharks were so abundant at Tiger Shark Bay, and why they were exhibiting high residency there during the cold months of the year.

“Given that most of the sharks there were female, with a 9:1 female to male ratio, and large, I suspected it could be related to reproduction.

“So I contacted my colleague, Dr. James Sulikowski, an expert on shark reproduction, and asked him to collaborate.

“Together we have been assessing the reproductive biology of tiger sharks at Tiger Shark Bay by carefully taking non-invasive blood samples and performing in water ultrasounds.

“This work has revealed that a large proportion of the female tiger sharks at TB are in fact pregnant!!

“Knowing the reproductive strategies and mating behaviours of animals is crucial for management and conservation.

“Historically, the reproductive biology of sharks has been studied by sacrificing the animals; however, in this study, we will have been performing ultrasounds on tiger sharks as well as taking blood samples for hormone analysis to determine reproductive status of these large predators.

“Coupling these techniques has allowed us to examine the reproductive state, cycle and length of gestation of sharks during our ongoing research without having to kill them as historically done.

“After their “pregnancy check-ups,” we have been tagging the pregnant sharks with satellite transmitters to track their movements and evaluate behavioural patterns to reveal possible gestation and pupping grounds.”