A group of researchers found that shark poo could help prevent corals lose their vibrant colors through bleaching. The only problem is that some shark species could become extinct.
The latest study shows that sharks supply necessary nutrients to corals and the creatures that call them their homes. Coral reefs’ biggest problem is bleaching due to the rising temperatures of the world’s oceans. Sharks’ “manure” seems to slow down the damaging process and help the fragile animals thrive.
A research team at the Imperial College London wanted to better understand sharks’ role in preserving the endangered ecosystems. Researchers tracked several sharks living in Hawaii’s Palmyra Atoll.
The location, which is classified as a US National Wildlife Refuge, is home to 400 fish species, melonhead whales, and turtles.
Shark Poo Vital for the Coral Reef
The sharks were tagged and geo-located. Scientists were able to track their every move around the reef and calculate how much poo they deposited on the reef. The animals’ habit of open ocean feeding has proven very successful in fertilizing the reef.
With more than 8,000 sharks swimming in the Palmyra Atoll, researchers estimate that they transport 94.5 kg of fertilizer to the coral reef every day. So much fertilizer is essential for the reef’s productivity and survival.
Senior author David Jacoby noted that the sharks tracked in the study, the grey reef sharks, are near threatened. This could put the coral reef in danger if they disappear since the predators are foraging in distant waters and bring precious nutrients to the reef, acting as “nutrient vectors.” Also, thousands of species that live in the reef need sharks to survive.
The study was published this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Image Source: Wikimedia
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