We may know sharks as bloodthirsty predators but scientists have discovered one of the most common species is actually an omnivore.
All of the sharks put on weight over the course of the study.
- About 4.9 million alone in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal waters of the U.S. -combined with their eating habits suggest that we need to re-evaluate the role that bonnetheads play in seagrass meadows.
But at least oneshark is made of less stern stuff, as American researchers found that it's omnivorous - and happy to munch on seagrass.
Experts from the University of California-Irvine and Florida International University in Miami chose to investigate the bonnethead sharks' dietary habits after reading reports of them munching on seagrass, reports Xinhua news agency. They've got a distinctive chemical signature.
As the seagrass took root, the researchers added sodium bicarbonate powder made with a specific carbon isotope to the water. The sharks digested more than half of the organic material in the grass.
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The researchers monitored the bonnetheads for a period of three weeks, during which time they fed the sharks a diet of 90 percent seagrass and 10 percent squid.
"Until now, most people thought that seagrass consumption was incidental when these sharks were hunting for crabs, etc. that live in the seagrass beds", Leigh said in a statement.
They retrieved sea grass from Florida Bay and hauled it back to the lab where they re-planted it.
The researchers ran a series of tests to see how much of the plant matter was digested.
"This is the first species of shark ever to be shown to have an omnivorous digestive strategy". This makes them as proficient at digesting plant matter as young green sea turtles, a reptile species that starts out as omnivorous and switches to a fully vegetarian diet in adulthood.
The team argues that these sharks are thriving on seagrass.