Scientists Discover the World’s First Omnivorous Shark: Bonnethead Sharks

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When we thought we knew all about sharks or at least all about their eating habits, we stand corrected.

This funny looking shark like to eat his meals with a side of seagrass!

Of course, they ruin the reputation of sharks being bloodthirsty predators. Researchers from the University of California were stunned to see a shark munching on seagrass and squid. Their study was published on Wednesday in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Bonnethead Sharks Also Gain Nutrition From Plants

Not only these sharks eat plants, but their body can process them and gain nutrition. They have high levels of enzymes that help them break down carbs and fiber, compared to other carnivores’ levels of enzymes. Researchers concluded that the bonnethead is the first known omnivorous shark.

KEL-861 Bonnethead / Shovelhead SHARK Tropical Seas Sphyrna tiburo Ken Lucas

They set up a tank with a small bonnethead and filmed it as it devoured a meal that was 90% seagrass and 10% squid.

Previous observations made other scientists think that these sharks unintentionally ate grass in shallow areas along the coastlines they inhabited (U.S., Central, and South America).

Bonnetheads are part of the hammerhead species, but they’re the smallest ones, growing only 2-3 feet long (0.6 – 0.9 meters).

Samantha Leigh, the lead researcher of the 4-year study at UCI’s School of Biological Sciences, said that this discovery will tell them more about seagrass ecosystems and how it is affected by climate change:

“The fact a highly abundant kind of shark feeds on the grasses is yet another indication of why we need to preserve this vegetation.”

Leigh hopes that this study will open “up the door for additional research” about seagrass communities and other species of sharks. They now want to see what is the role of the bonnethead sharks in seagrass environments.

Dr. Sandy Trautwein of the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, who was not part of the study, concluded that the study’s findings are “unique, but not surprising, given bonnetheads’ niche in tropical ecosystems.”

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere