Each summer in late June/early July, thousands of marbled groupers congregate among the coral reefs of French Polynesia to spawn, attracting predators like the grey reef shark. This year, a team of scientists working with the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation's Global Reef Expedition, accompanied by cameramen capturing footage for the PBS documentary, Mysteries of the Coral Canyon, studied this event to learn about the predatory habits of the grey reef shark.
The Global Reef Expedition is characterized by the KSLOR as "the largest coral reef survey in history, circumnavigating the globe studying the health and resiliency of remote coral reefs." The goal of the Expedition is to study and evaluate the health of the world's coral reefs and identify threats, with the goal of educating the public and regulatory bodies, who can in turn have a positive impact by working to better manage and preserve coral reefs and the important role they play in the balance of oceanic ecosystems.
A key to this mission is gaining a better understanding of the ecosystem of the coral reef itself. Captain Philip Renaud, Executive Director of KSLOF notes that, “To protect coral reefs, we need to understand the role sharks play in the ecosystem. This research suggests sharks may be able to regulate the balance of reef fish by hunting over-abundant species.”
Reviewing the captured footage, researchers were able to gain insights into the gray reef shark's feeding patterns. Dr. William Robbins, lead author of the study, observes, "Grey reef sharks are adaptable predators. This research shows sharks modify their hunting strategy based on the type of fish they are targeting – slow and steady for agile fish like fusilier, fast and furious for large fish like grouper.”
For more information about the Global Reef Expedition, visit www.livingoceansfoundation.org/global-reef-expedition.
Check out this footage from the PBS documentary, Mysteries of the Coral Canyon: