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    Image courtesy of Ramon Llaneza

From: Ramon Llaneza
Bahamas, July 4, 2008

Shark Behavior Project

On July 1, 2008 we left the Florida East Coast at 5 am and headed to the south reef of Grand Bahamas Island. When we started out we sailed toward a beautiful sunrise, clear blue skies, and a flat ocean. Our team is studying the short-term changes in reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezii) and evaluating behavior changes after the sharks are stimulated by sensors. One of our goals is to understand the shark's behavior associated with selective attention to certain stimuli. Another goal is to educate people on how to behave in the water when sharks are present, and to not be afraid of sharks.

Once we got to the reef, we prepared our diving equipment and planned the dive. We dove in a place where sharks are use to being fed by divers, and approximately 11 reef sharks surrounded us.

We are doing field tests to stimulate the sharks using sounds and visuals that correlate with their behavior display. At every moment while swimming, sharks are confronted with a variety of stimuli. They constantly make decisions on how to respond to these stimuli. We are evaluating how a shark regulates its options in deciding which activity it should complete in order to accomplish its ultimate goal. Somehow these sharks manage to “choose” a behavior pattern and, having selected an option, manage to complete it, avoiding the host of distractions around them.

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Postcards from the Field: Shark Watching

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