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Australian turtle fights back and fends off shark attack

Researchers from the Harry Butler Institute and Western Australia’s Department of Biodiversity have captured the world’s first video of a shark attacking a sea turtle and showing the entire attack from the turtle’s perspective. The turtle shell is a legendary protective element for these oceanic wanderers. It is a natural armour that helps its owner
Published: December 29, 2020 - 09:00
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 21:46
Australian turtle fights back and fends off shark attack

Researchers from the Harry Butler Institute and Western Australia’s Department of Biodiversity have captured the world’s first video of a shark attacking a sea turtle and showing the entire attack from the turtle’s perspective.

The turtle shell is a legendary protective element for these oceanic wanderers. It is a natural armour that helps its owner avoid the sad fate of becoming a meal for marine predators. This is one of the reasons why turtles are often perceived as peaceful creatures that hide inside the shell at the first sign of danger.

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Researchers from our Harry Butler Institute have captured world-first footage of a flatback sea turtle using aggressive behaviour against a shark attack.

The surprising interaction was captured using ‘smart tags’ attached to the sea turtle, similar to wearing an action camera coupled with a Fitbit, as part of a larger foraging project with Western Australia’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions.

Check out the story on Channel 9 below or read our article online: https://loom.ly/RdkCT28

Posted by Murdoch University on Friday, December 18, 2020

The entire interaction was captured using novel tags, reminiscent of sports cameras connected to a Fitbit device, which were attached to the turtle’s shell.

Harry Butler Institute PhD student Jenna Hounslow said it is not surprising that a tiger shark would try to kill and eat a sea turtle, given that it is one of the main prey for this shark species.

It surprised me that the turtle aggressively defends itself in an attempt to bite the attacking shark,” said Hounslow

Ms Hounslow said the findings from the film encourage the use of modern technology to observe marine animals more closely in future research projects.

Aggression and fighting behaviour may have previously been overlooked as behaviour used against predators, as documenting underwater for extended periods of time from the animal’s point of view has only recently become possible.

Dr Sabrina Fossette of the WA DBCA added that many aspects of the life cycle of natator tortoises, are still relatively unknown to science.

This new technology gives us unparalleled insight into what these turtles do when they are at sea away from the beaches where they nest, which is the biggest but least understood aspect of their lives, Fossette said

Researchers suspect that the aggressive behaviour is simply a way of reducing the chances of being eaten when the shell does not offer full protection. In this case, the turtle managed to escape from the shark and emerge unscathed.

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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