Are Sevengill Sharks ‘Targeting’ Divers And Hunting In Packs Off New Zealand?

Divers in New Zealand face an unusual standoff with sevengill sharks, which are known to become aggressive in certain circumstances, and a new documentary airing on Discovery is examining the situation, leading to stunning footage of the sharks hunting in packs and feeding at night.

The special in question is titled Sharks of the Shadowland, and it airs as part of Shark Week, the network’s yearly ratings juggernaut. As the Oregonian reports, the program follows a group of divers as they seek to eradicate an invasive form of seaweed from an important shark habitat off the coast of New Zealand. Their efforts, however, are hindered by the very same sevengill sharks that they are seeking to protect, which can become aggressive under certain stimuli.

Sevengill sharks generally live in temperate waters but are not found in the Northern Atlantic or the Mediterranean. As Phys.org points out, only three suspected attacks in the past half century have been attributed to the sevengill shark, the most recent of which transpired in 2009 in New Zealand. The sharks can become extremely aggressive, however, when they are either mating, feeding, or are provoked by divers. They are also known to display this trait when kept in an aquarium.

This behavior has very real consequences for the divers in New Zealand, who are at the animals’ mercy when they descend into their habitat. Footage released ahead of the special shows the sevengill sharks attempting to bite into the crew’s cameras, showing no hesitancy when approaching the invading aquanauts. The divers, in turn, have attempted to visually identify the most aggressive sharks, so that they can understand which animals pose a threat.

The sevengill sharks are not the only species to concern divers in the waters off New Zealand, however. The region is home to a population of white sharks, as the Inquisitr previously reported, which have led to a highly contentious situation in Stewart Island. Local cage diving companies, which use bait to attract the white sharks, have been blamed for a change in the great whites’ behavior, as they now appear to be more aggressively approaching paua divers. It is thought that repeated baiting of the white sharks may have trained them to associate humans with food.

The sevengill sharks off New Zealand were filmed displaying certain behaviors that are only rarely seen. The sharks were recorded feeding at night, a time when the predators are more active. Most interestingly, however, the sevengill sharks were filmed hunting in packs, a behavior sure to give divers and swimmers beyond New Zealand more than a moment’s pause.

[Image: Monterey Aquarium via Twitter]