Marine Biology

, 165:11 | Cite as

Effects of auditory and visual stimuli on shark feeding behaviour: the disco effect

  • Laura A. RyanEmail author
  • Lucille ChapuisEmail author
  • Jan M. Hemmi
  • Shaun P. Collin
  • Robert D. McCauley
  • Kara E. Yopak
  • Enrico Gennari
  • Charlie Huveneers
  • Ryan M. Kempster
  • Caroline C. Kerr
  • Carl Schmidt
  • Channing A. Egeberg
  • Nathan S. Hart
Original paper


Sensory systems play a central role in guiding animal behaviour. They can be manipulated to alter behavioural outcomes to limit negative interactions between humans and animals. Sharks are often seen as a threat to humans and there has been increasing interest in developing shark mitigation devices. Previous research has concentrated on stimulating the electrosensory and olfactory systems of sharks, whereas the influence of light and sound on their behaviour has received little attention. In this study, the effects of an intense strobe light and a loud, artificial sound composed of mixed frequencies and intensities on shark behaviour were assessed. We tested these stimuli individually and in combination on wild-caught captive Port Jackson (Heterodontus portusjacksoni) and epaulette (Hemiscyllium ocellatum) sharks in aquaria and on wild great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) in the field. When presented alone and in combination with sound, the lights reduced the number of times that the bait was taken by both H. portusjacksoni and H. ocellatum in captivity. The strobe light alone, however, did not affect the behaviour of white sharks, but when presented in combination with sound, white sharks spent significantly less time in proximity to the bait. As the lights and sound presented in this study did not show a pronounced deterrent effect on C. carcharias, we do not advise their use as a strategy for mitigating shark–human interactions. However, due to the potential effectiveness of strobe lights in deterring other species of sharks, there may be applications for this approach in the reduction of fisheries bycatch.



We would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Western Australian State Government to NSH and SPC and Sea World Research & Rescue Foundation (Grant SWR/6/2014 to NSH, LAR, JMH and SPC and Grant SWR/3/2013 to SPC, LC, RDM and NSH). The UWA Neuroecology Group would also like to express sincere gratitude and appreciation for the continued support and generous financial assistance provided by Craig and Katrina Burton. We thank all the staff and volunteers at Oceans Research who helped us in Mossel Bay. We are grateful to Friedrich Ladich, Christopher Braun, Timothy Tricas, Neil Hammerschlag, Richard Brill and Tamara Frank for their comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standards

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of the animals were followed. This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

227_2017_3256_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (273 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 272 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura A. Ryan
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Lucille Chapuis
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jan M. Hemmi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shaun P. Collin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Robert D. McCauley
    • 4
  • Kara E. Yopak
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  • Enrico Gennari
    • 6
    • 7
    • 8
  • Charlie Huveneers
    • 9
  • Ryan M. Kempster
    • 1
    • 2
  • Caroline C. Kerr
    • 1
    • 2
  • Carl Schmidt
    • 1
    • 2
  • Channing A. Egeberg
    • 1
    • 2
  • Nathan S. Hart
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  2. 2.The UWA Oceans Institute, The University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesMacquarie UniversityNorth RydeAustralia
  4. 4.Centre for Marine Science and TechnologyCurtin UniversityPerthAustralia
  5. 5.School of Biology and Marine Biology and the Center for Marine ScienceUniversity of North Carolina WilmingtonWilmingtonUSA
  6. 6.Oceans ResearchMossel BaySouth Africa
  7. 7.South African Institute for Aquatic BiodiversityGrahamstownSouth Africa
  8. 8.Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries ScienceRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa
  9. 9.School of Biological SciencesFlinders UniversityBedford ParkAustralia

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