Baby sharks stay still to avoid being detected by predators

Public Release

PLOS (Public Library of Science)

09. January 2013

Embryonic sharks in egg cases can sense predators’ electric fields, respond by reducing movement

Baby sharks still developing in their egg cases can sense when predators are near, and keep very still to avoid being detected, according to research published January 9 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Ryan Kempster from the University of Western Australia and colleagues ( see here ).

Adult sharks are known to use highly sensitive receptors to detect electric fields emitted by potential prey. In the current study, researchers found that embryos of some shark species employ similar means to detect potential predators and escape being eaten.

The researchers found that, even within their egg cases, brown-banded bamboo shark embryos can sense electric fields that mimic a predator, and respond by reducing respiratory gill movements to avoid detection. According to the authors, their results suggest that even at these early stages, embryonic sharks can recognize dangers and instinctively try to avoid them.

Kempster adds, “Despite being confined to a very small space within an egg case where they are vulnerable to predators, embryonic sharks are able to recognise dangerous stimuli and react with an innate avoidance response. Knowledge of such behaviours may help us to develop effective shark repellents.”


Citation: Kempster RM, Hart NS, Collin SP (2013) Survival of the Stillest: Predator Avoidance in Shark Embryos. PLoS ONE 8(1): e52551. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052551

Financial Disclosure: This work was supported by funding from the WA State Government and The University of Western Australia (to SPC). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interest Statement: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Source: PLOS


1 Comment

  1. Mark

    How cool is that?!!!  It’s pretty exciting to witness all these new types of studies into sharks and their behaviors. We have only just begun to scrape the surface into our knowledge of these great creatures. I fear that we are so far behind the stereotypes and the unfounded mass killings of sharks(fins, fear, sport…) that we have long tough journey ahead. But bravo to these scientists and students.  Congrats!

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