A team of researchers from the University of Tokyo has discovered strange circular movements in different species of marine fauna and megafauna. The high-speed turns seen in whales, sharks, penguins and sea turtles could be motivated by foraging, social interactions or navigation, among other possible causes.
In a new study, researchers discovered this unusual behavior, astonished to see, for example, how a sea turtle turned when swimming at high speed. Considering that swimming in a straight line is the most efficient way to move, specialists believe that there must be some good reason for the animals to move in circles.
According to a Press release, it is possible that the circles help the animals to detect the magnetic field to navigate, although it is still necessary to study environmental and internal conditions of the animals to reach a definitive conclusion. Specialists also believe that other possible causes for this behavior could be issues related to food or social relationships and communication.
A mystery to solve
Taking advantage of new technologies applied to biological research, Japanese scientists were able to track the movements of large animals that inhabit the ocean in three dimensions, obtaining remarkable precision in both time and space. From these data and observations they found that various species had made the enigmatic decision to swim in circles.
In the conclusions of the research, recently published in the journal iScience, they explore some of the possible motivations that marine mammals and other animals could have to develop these movements. However, researchers have not yet reached a definitive explanation: they believe that further studies are necessary to fully unravel the phenomenon.
According to Tomoko Narazaki, leader of the research group and lead author of the study, “a wide variety of marine megafauna exhibited similar circular behavior, in which the animals circled consecutively at a high and relatively constant speed, repeating the behavior repeatedly. », It indicated.
One of the possible motivations could be the search for food. The team of scientists recorded movements in circles in the feeding areas of the animals, a finding that suggests that the behavior could have some benefit in finding food. This observation was made in the case of tiger sharks.
However, other records of circular movement appeared to be unrelated to foraging. For example, they also observed in tiger sharks that males circle to approach females before courtship, evidence that could indicate that circular behavior may be related to communication and social interactions.
At the same time, the data obtained on the behavior of sea turtles indicates that movements in circles could be related to orientation during navigation. They found that these animals made the turns just before reaching the set target and in other important instances when navigating. In this way, the circles could facilitate the detection of the magnetic field.
To conclude, the researchers argue that the causes of these circular movements are likely to be multiple. To fully understand the phenomenon, they will carry out new research aimed at analyzing the environmental conditions that may influence, together with the behavior of each species.
Similar circling movements observed across marine megafauna taxa. Tomoko Narazaki et al. iScience (2021) .DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2021.102221
Scientists are intrigued by the circular behavior of various species of marine megafauna. Credit: Narazaki et al. / iScience.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.