Science | 8 March, 2018
A new study by Queen’s University scientists and an international team of researchers has found that tiger sharks, a potentially dangerous species for swimmers, are most active and most abundant in coastal waters of around 22°C.
In the study, led by Dr Nicholas Payne, a visiting researcher at Queen’s University Belfast and an academic at the Department of Life Sciences at the University of Roehampton, researchers attached accelerometers - small tags resembling Fitbits - to tiger sharks off Hawaii to monitor their swimming activity levels.
They then analysed decades of records on catch rates of the species spanning Australia’s eastern coastline.
Dr Jonathan Houghton from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast was a key scientist on the research project and the findings have now been published in Global Change Biology.
Dr Payne said the study is important for both the ecology of the species and management. He commented: “How we manage risks associated with potentially dangerous shark species is a difficult issue for authorities. Building our understanding of the biology and ecology of dangerous species might enable us to develop shark management strategies that don’t rely solely on killing sharks.”
Pointing to precedents for other dangerous animals, he added: “In parts of northern Australia, we close beaches and use public awareness campaigns to minimise injury caused by marine stingers; this management strategy is based on our knowledge that dangerous jellyfish only appear on those beaches under certain weather conditions, including when the water is warm.”
Dr Houghton commented: “This has been a fantastic international collaboration and I am delighted that Queen’s University Belfast have been able to play a role in this ground-breaking research.”
The study was published this week in the journal Global Change Biology: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1365-2486)
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