Surf’s up! Gray reef sharks can’t hang ten, but they’re still pretty rad surfers.
They’re not seeking thrills or looking to connect with nature when they take to the waves. They surf to conserve energy, according to new research led by FIU marine scientist Yannis Papastamatiou along with an international team of researchers. They found hundreds of gray reef sharks in the southern channel of Fakarava Atoll in French Polynesia are surfing the slope by floating on the updrafts from currents.
During a diving trip, Papastamatiou observed sharks swimming against the current but were barely moving their tails.
“During the day, they’re pretty placid and relaxed, swimming with minimal effort,” Papastamatiou said. “It’s interesting because it’s a pretty strong current.”
Then something really caught his attention — the sharks had developed a conveyer-belt-like system. When one shark reached the end of the line, it allowed the current to carry it back to the beginning point. The next shark in line did the same. And then the next. Papastamatiou was intrigued.