Great White Shark Caught On Camera Napping For The First Time Scientists think they've finally caught on film a shark getting some rest. NPR's Rachel Martin talks to Greg Skomal, a marine fisheries biologist, who was part of the team that collected the footage.
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Great White Shark Caught On Camera Napping For The First Time

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Great White Shark Caught On Camera Napping For The First Time

Great White Shark Caught On Camera Napping For The First Time

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, which means a whole lot of shark attacks.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Ow.

MARTIN: Sharks attacking people.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: The white tip suddenly reappeared out of nowhere, went straight at one of the divers and bit him.

MARTIN: Sharks attacking people in shark cages.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: He's going to go after Gary (ph). He's coming right at me.

MARTIN: Previews of sharks attacking Blake Lively in "The Shallows."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE SHALLOWS")

BLAKE LIVELY: (As Nancy) Get out - shark.

MARTIN: And now, in a video posted by Discovery earlier this week, this.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JAWS OF THE DEEP")

UNIDENTIFIED NARRATOR: The SharkCam team is witnessing a dramatic shift in white shark behavior.

MARTIN: But it might not be quite what you'd expect.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JAWS OF THE DEEP")

UNIDENTIFIED NARRATOR: At 8:30, they see something no one's ever seen before.

MARTIN: Scientists believe they have recorded a great white shark napping.

GREG SKOMAL: Maybe it was a power nap and it was just recharging its batteries before menacing a bunch of seal pups.

MARTIN: That's Greg Skomal. He's a biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. Skomal was part of a team that collected the footage off the coast of Guadeloupe last December. They tagged a shark and were following it with an underwater camera.

SKOMAL: The goal of our research was to use SharkCam to see what these sharks do when they disappear into deep water and also what they do at night, you know, which is a really tough time to study the behavior of animals, particularly if they're in the ocean.

MARTIN: And the SharkCam did its job.

SKOMAL: We saw that the sharks were almost in a catatonic state.

MARTIN: You've probably seen something similar sleeping next to you at night, mouth gaping open, moving slowly - except sharks don't snore.

SKOMAL: No, sharks don't make any noises - ever.

MARTIN: But even when resting, sharks have to keep swimming.

SKOMAL: It has to force water into its mouth and over its gills. Otherwise, quite frankly, it would drown.

MARTIN: Skomal says it was exhilarating to watch. No one had ever witnessed that type of behavior from a shark before, even though the constant movement makes it hard to definitively prove that the shark was sleeping.

SKOMAL: It's almost impossible for us to actually determine whether it was napping, whether it was sleeping or just going into kind of a resting state where it's slowed down perhaps its metabolic rate, it's slowed down its swimming movement. It went to a bare minimum in terms of keeping itself alive.

MARTIN: One thing's for sure - this napping shark, whose name is Emma, looked almost peaceful.

SKOMAL: All too often, we think of the white shark and - unfortunately, it's portrayed this way, you know, on television - as being a highly aggressive monster that is out to consume everything in its path, including humans.

MARTIN: But really, they're just animals like us.

SKOMAL: And it has to do what most animals do. You know, it has to eat, but it also has to rest.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BRAHM'S LULLABY")

MARTIN: Nighty-night, Emma the shark. Nighty-night.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BRAHM'S LULLABY")

MARTIN: That was marine biologist Greg Skomal with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BRAHM'S LULLABY")

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