A few of the shipwrecks that the 2010 Battle of the Atlantic crew have been visiting are areas where sand tiger sharks (Carcharias taurus) congregate by the dozens!
Sand Tiger shark curiously follows the NOAA diver. (NOAA)
While these creatures may look intimidating, they are actually very docile. They also have distinct spots on their sides, which allow them to be identified. Through photo-identification, scientists and researchers can non-invasively identify individuals and gather information on the behavior of these animals.
Sand Tiger sharks all have unique spots that can be used for identification. (NOAA)
Once a picture of the side, or flank, of the shark is taken, it is uploaded into a computer identification program. Scientists at East Carolina University then use the computer program to select a series of the shark's spots. The series of spots is unique to that individual and will be used to identify that specific shark. If another picture of that shark is taken and uploaded, the computer system will recognize the spot pattern and be able to identify the shark!
You can help add to an existing database of sand tiger sharks! If you have any pictures of sand tiger sharks off the North Carolina coast, send them to Mark Keusenkothen or Lauren Heesemann. Make sure you include the date and location the picture was taken; the more details you can provide the better. Your participation in this project will help scientists gather information about these amazing and mysterious animals!