This is What a Great White Shark Looks Like Hunting for a Seal

Underwater footage of a shark sneaking up on—and ambushing—its prey is so jarring, you can practically hear the Jaws soundtrack.

The video was captured by a camera strapped on the back of a great white shark, a species that can be found in surface- and deep-waters in all major oceans and has a lifespan of 70 years or more.

But despite its reputation as the seas' most vicious predator—an image solidified in films such as Sharknado, Open Water and, of course, Jaws—there is little known about the great white's predatory behavior underwater, say scientists writing in Marine Ecology Progress Series. What we do know, they add, tends to be limited to events on the surface. See: shark targets seal, shark targets sperm whale and shark targets surfer, as examples.

"Although breaching behavior can be seen from boats and is well studied, what happens underwater is mostly unknown," lead author Yuuki Watanabe, associate professor in marine biology at the National Institute of Polar Research in Japan, explained.

"Moreover, in other aggregation sites of white sharks, including our study site in Australia, breaching behavior is rarely seen, suggesting that different hunting strategies are employed by these sharks."

Great White Shark
Relatively little is known about great white sharks' underwater behavior. Dave J Hogan/Getty

To capture footage of a great white attacking a seal, the team used video- and data-logging technology. This enabled the researchers to observe the strategy of hunting sharks directly. But first, they had to entice sharks to their research boat—a process involving "chum", a bait containing the flesh and blood of fish.

Sharks attracted to the chum were tracked with a data logging package, secured to the front edge of their dorsal fin, for a period of one to two days. This package included an accelerometer to record speed, depth and water temperatures. Three of the eight sharks were also equipped with a small video camera to record activity in six-hour episodes pre-programmed to start at various intervals.

By the end of the experiment, there were 150 hours of recorded acceleration data. The recordings suggest there are seven potential predation events at depths between zero and 53 meters that took place primarily at nighttime and sometimes between dawn and dusk, the researchers say.

The study also produced a shot of a shark making a beeline for a seal. The data logger shows the attack was accompanied by intensive swimming action and a rapid burst in lateral acceleration, tailbeat frequency and swim speed.

"In Japanese, we say 'seeing is worth a thousand words.' This is also the case for ecological studies of marine animals," said Watanabe.

This is What a Great White Shark Looks Like Hunting for a Seal | Tech & Science