Friday, 11 January 2013

Shark embryos 'freeze' to evade predators

Bamboo shark embryos developing in egg cases stay still to evade predators, scientists say.

Australian researchers found that the embryos could identify electric fields simulating a nearby predator, despite being confined to a tiny egg case.

On sensing danger, they "froze" and temporarily stopped breathing to avoid being detected.

Sharks use jelly-filled pores on their heads called electroreceptors to recognise other animals.

These highly sensitive receptors enable sharks to locate prey, predators or potential mates from minute bioelectric fields.
The study, by scientists from the University of Western Australia, Crawley, near Perth, suggests brownbanded bamboo shark (Chiloscyllium punctatum) embryos are able to employ similar methods to detect predators.

"Embryonic sharks are able to recognise dangerous stimuli and react with an innate avoidance response," explained Ryan Kempster, a shark biologist and member of the research team.

The team's findings are published in the journal PLoS ONE.

Brownbanded bamboo sharks grow up to 1.2m (3.9ft) in length and are found in the Indo-West Pacific region as well as coastal areas of northern Australia and southern New Guinea.

Continued: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/20945543

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