Are You Braver Than A Sea Turtle?

The presence of sharks doesn’t cause sea turtles to alter their behaviour, according to new research

When you’re thinking of fearless animals, sea turtles probably don’t come to mind. But new research from the University of Miami could change all that.

The biology theory “the landscape of fear” suggests that when prey is in an area with a high risk of predation, the prey will change its behaviour to mitigate the risk.

However, researchers have found that when tiger sharks enter the sea turtles habitat, ready to feed, these brave reptiles continue surfacing and exposing their vulnerable areas as usual.

Research Assistant Professor Neil Hammerschlag at the UM Rosenstiel School & Abess Center suggests that “sharks may not be an important factor influencing the movements of turtles in the study region.”

"In addition to the unpredictability of a shark attack over such a large area, it is possible that fishing of tiger sharks has reduced their populations to levels that no longer pose a significant threat to turtles, with other factors becoming more important such as the need to avoid boat strikes.”

Regardless of the reason, the researchers say their findings could have major implications for evolutionary biology, community biology and wildlife conservation.

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