A photographer has demonstrated how great white sharks will chase his drone’s shadow in much the same way a cat will chase a laser pointer.
Carlos Gauna is a filmmaker and professional photographer who runs a YouTube Channel called The Malibu Artist that features incredible drone footage of sharks and whales filmed off the coast of California.
In the above video, Gauna says he is often asked whether the sharks he is filming can see or sense the drone above them. So, he wanted to test out whether they noticed them by flying his drone’s shadow close to a great white shark.
“While I typically use drones to film sharks without interfering, this video is a little different,” explains Gauna. “In order to film the sharks without interrupting their natural movements, I must know where the boundary is.”
Gauna reckons that sharks don’t notice the drone, but what they can notice is the drone’s shadow. To demonstrate this, he flies the drone so its silhouette is in close proximity to a great white shark. Amazingly, the apex predator takes notice of it and begins swimming after it.
“It quickly became evident that the shark’s vision is very precise,” says Gauna. “For me, it demonstrates that sharks react to the drone’s shadow instead of the drone itself and it gives me information for where to fly to minimize interference.”
Gauna tried this out with a few other sharks who all took notice of the drone’s shadow. And while it’s a fascinating experiment, how sharks perceive the world remains a mystery.
“The shark seems to be reacting to shadows when they are beside it, behind it, and in front of it. It really raises questions about how good their vision is,” he says.
“While great white sharks have remarkable vision, the extent to which they can perceive shadows above them is is not fully understood.
“They may not know the drone is there but you can definitey say they see the shadow. Just about every time one sees it, they chase it.
“I found myself almost being able to guide the sharks in a particular direction simply by using the show — like a cat chasing a laser pointer.”
Gauna says his experiments will help him fly his drone more responsibly in the future.
“It gives me insights into how to fly the drone with a shadow in mind in order to stay out of sight.”