Cryptic Behaviors and Post-capture Recovery Processes: New Insights From a Threatened Marine Apex Predator

Published on
04 January 2022

Cryptic Behaviors and Post-capture Recovery Processes: New Insights From a Threatened Marine Apex Predator

Richard Grainger, David Raubenheimer, Victor M. Peddemors, Paul A. Butcher, Gabriel E. Machovsky-Capuska


Multisensor biologging provides a powerful tool for ecological research, enabling fine-scale observation of animals to directly link physiology and movement to behavior across ecological contexts. However, applied research into behavioral disturbance and recovery following human interventions (e.g., capture and translocation) has mostly relied on coarse location-based tracking or unidimensional approaches (e.g., dive profiles and activity/energetic metrics) that may not resolve behaviors and recovery processes. Biologging can improve insights into both disturbed and natural behavior, which is critical for management and conservation initiatives, although challenges remain in objectively identifying distinct behavioral modes from complex multisensor datasets. Using white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) released from a non-lethal catch-and-release shark bite mitigation program, we explored how combining multisensor biologging (video, depth, accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers), track reconstruction and behavioral state modeling using hidden Markov models (HMMs) can improve our understanding of behavioral processes and recovery. Biologging tags were deployed on eight white sharks, recording their continuous behaviors, movements, and environmental context (habitat, interactions with other organisms/objects) for periods of 10–87 h post-release. Dive profiles and tailbeat analysis (as a standard, activity-based method for assessing recovery) indicated an immediate “disturbed” period of offshore movement, displaying rapid tailbeats and an average tailbeat-derived recovery period of 9.7 h, with evidence of smaller individuals having longer recoveries. However, further integrating magnetometer-derived headings, track reconstruction and HMM modeling revealed a cryptic shift to diurnal clockwise-counterclockwise circling behavior, which we argue represents compelling new evidence for hypothesized unihemispheric sleep amongst elasmobranchs. By simultaneously providing critical information toward conservation-focused shark management and understudied aspects of shark behavior, our study highlights how integrating multisensor information through HMMs can improve our understanding of both post-release and natural behavior, especially in species that are difficult to observe directly.

Front. Mar. Sci., 04 January 2022, DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2021.791185


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