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Longboat Key Monday, Mar. 22, 2010 7 years ago

Mote uses Wii technology to explore shark mating behaviors

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

Mote Marine Laboratory scientists are using motion sensors similar to those in smart phones to reveal how sharks spend their time in the wild.

In a recent study published in the journal “Endangered Species Research,” Mote scientists monitored mating in wild nurse sharks using accelerometers, the motion-sensitive computer chips used in smart phones, iPhones and Nintendo Wiis. The accelerometers were attached to sharks and can detect each movement of a shark’s body or tail to determine what the shark is doing and when the shark is doing that activity.

“Accelerometer tags are unique in that they record the actual physical movements of the animal’s body,” said Dr. Nick Whitney, the study’s lead author and a post-doctoral scientist at Mote’s Center for Shark Research, in a prepared statement. “So that gives us a much better idea of what the animal is doing — not just where it’s going.”

The research showed that sharks weren’t mating much at night, which Whitney said was surprising because sharks are thought to be more active at night. Researchers also found that sharks mated in deeper water than scientists had previously observed.

According to Whitney, accelerometers eventually could be used for species that are more difficult to observe, including bull sharks, hammerheads and sandbar sharks. Determining where sharks mate is important to protecting their breeding grounds, Whitney said.

Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected].

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