Cryptic habitat use of white sharks in kelp forest revealed by animal-borne video

Role: Research assistant and communicator

Do sharks swim through or around kelp?

Do sharks swim through kelp?

The White Shark Kinematics project has taught us a considerable amount about white shark behaviour. One thing of particular interest that has also been the subject of long term debate, is how they interact with Kelp forests.

Opinion has been split on this subject. in Gansbaai, South Africa at least.

One school of thought is that kelp is generally too dense for sharks to swim through. They therefore avoid these areas, making them a safe haven for seals wishing not to get chomped on.

Which makes sense, on the fact of it. The fact that groups have invested considerable time and money into the development of Shark Barriers which aim to mimic kelp as a means of making swimming zones safe, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they wish for this to be true.

The other school of thought, is that sharks don’t care. Sure, seals might swim into these areas because they provide more coverage than the open sea. But that doesn’t necessarily mean sharks won’t follow them in. These are streamlined, agile creatures with incredibly accurate, powerful senses. It’s going to take more than a bit of submerged shrubbery to dissuade their pursuit of a chubby meal.

Oliver interviewed on CBSN to talk about this project

In 2019, Oliver Jewell published Cryptic habitat use of white sharks in kelp forest revealed by animal-borne video, which proved beyond any doubt, that sharks will not only follow seals into kelp forests, but they’ll actively hunt there, too. His study contains numerous video snippets of sharks pushing through reasonably dense areas of kelp, to pursue seals both alone and in groups.

I provided technical support to the team when tagging some of the sharks featured in Oliver’s dataset. I also created some promotional artwork for the study, featuring a steel kelp shark structure, sculpted in Maya.

Available for hire

I'm keen to discuss opportunities for collaboration in any of the fields showcased on this website. If you'd like to hire me, get some outside perspective on your own work or just chew the fat about sharks or batman - please do...

Get in touch