Incredible drone footage of tiger shark attacking turtle provides insights into hunting behaviour
From above the tiger shark’s grey silhouette stands stark against the sun-drenched sands of the sea-floor below. With flowing, almost lethargic, strokes of its tail the shark cruises slowly through the water.
As it drifts past a sea turtle, its behaviour suddenly shifts. This time the shark doesn’t continue on its way, as it has done during previous turtle encounters, rather its attention locks in on the reptile.
Directed by senses which have evolved over millions of years for this exact situation, the shark effortlessly closes the distance to the now-alarmed turtle. As the shark hones in on its prey, both animals show a breathtaking display of agility and ingenuity during the ensuing battle.
Early on in the encounter, the juvenile tiger shark manages to latch onto one of the turtle’s pectoral (front) flippers in what seems to be a swift end to the affair. Unbelievably, the sea turtle breaks free from the shark’s toothy grip and makes a dash for the safety of the shallow reef – at one point even swimming upside down over its pursuer to keep its shell between vital organs and foe. Although its first potential victim escapes, the shark is undeterred and quickly hones in on another turtle. Once again, the predator grabs a pectoral flipper, yet again the turtle slips free and manages to escape.
This encounter “is not like anything I’ve ever seen”, says drone operator and cinematographer, Carlos Gauna, in the voiceover to his footage posted on his YouTube channel ‘The Malibu Artist’. These are strong words from someone who spends much of his time capturing mesmerising (and often thrilling) drone footage of great white sharks off the coast of southern California.
Gauna, who is “constantly on the search for places that are not necessarily well-known as shark hotspots”, was drawn to the Fernando de Noronha archipelago when he learned about a series of shark attacks which occurred in Sueste Bay, where this footage was captured. Gauna retells that he was immediately stunned by the number of sharks he observed during his first flight over the island. He saw ten lemon sharks hunting anchovies just off the beach. “My first thought was, ‘this is amazing, I wish I could have this water clarity in Southern California’” he told me over email.