Scientists at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (UM) and the Institute of Zoology at the Zoological Society London (ZSL) found that tiger sharks, often considered a solitary nomadic species, are social creatures, having preferences for one another.
A first of its kind, the study also evaluated if exposure of the tiger shark to baited dive tourism impacted their social behaviour. The study was conducted at a site named Tiger Beach, located off the north-west side of Little Bahama bank in the Bahamas. The area is known for hosting shark diving encounters, where the sharks are attracted with chum and often fed in front of dive tourists.
The research team tagged and tracked the movements of tiger sharks over the course of three years. They then applied a tool called Social Network Analysis to the tracking data to examine if tiger sharks exhibited social grouping behaviour and if this social behaviour differed at locations where sharks were exposed to baited shark dive tourism. The study not only found that tiger sharks formed social groups, but also discovered that at sites where tiger sharks were being fed by dive tourism operators, tiger sharks became more aggregated, but interactions between sharks became more random, suggesting a breakdown in social organisation. MORE
Header image: Neil Hammerschlag.