Sea Turtle’s Strategy Foils Tiger Shark Attack

As the turtle turns, it literally uses its shell as a shield against the tiger shark.

The ocean is home not only to predators like tiger sharks, but also the prey upon which they feed, and new video has shed light on just how those animals can effectively defend themselves from hungry sharks.

Other than their hard shells, turtles possess few natural defenses. Since tiger sharks can easily make their way through that barrier with their powerful teeth, prey animals like sea turtles have developed clever behavioral defenses to ward off sharks. As Shark Attack News notes, an informative video posted to YouTube by Skyler Thomas reveals the turtle’s tactics in action, much to the dismay of one frustrated shark.

When an inquisitive and hungry tiger shark approaches, a sea turtle will often turn to present the full width of its shell to the predator. By rolling sideways, it not only uses the shell as a literal shield against the shark, but also creates a situation in which the predator’s teeth are ineffective, as the shark’s mouth cannot open wide enough to bite the turtle. In contrast, if the sea turtle were to remain horizontally aligned with the shark, the predator would easily be able to strike. Though highly effective, the turtle’s half-roll isn’t the only behavioral defense it uses to fend off a shark.

Turtles have the advantage of being much smaller in length than sharks. While this makes the shark more dangerous, it also allows the turtle to turn in a tighter circle than a tiger shark, which can grow to more than 10 feet in length. In the video, the turtle stays very close to the tiger shark, which cannot match the tight radius of its turn. The shark is defeated by its own length, unable to reach the turtle.

Animal Bytes TV presented the footage as part of their episode The Price of Existence, featuring loggerhead turtles, nurse sharks, and tiger sharks. Randall Arauz, founder of the Costa Rican non-profit NGO Pretoma, asserted that the video came from Cocos Island.

Tiger sharks can be dangerous not only to sea turtles, but also to humans who are mistaken for prey. Considered one of the world’s most dangerous sharks, the species has recently been blamed for a string of attacks in the waters off Hawaii. Over the course of two weeks, four predation attempts took place, as tiger sharks struck at surfers and paddleboarders. As the Inquisitr noted, the passing of Hurricane Ana muddied the waters around the islands, resulting in a dangerous environment that lends itself to ambush-style attacks by tiger sharks.

[Image: Pretoma via Shark Attack News]