Exclusive: Nat Geo WILD Shark Swarm, star Riley Elliott says, “The largest, well documented gathering”

Riley Elliott

Premiere, on Tuesday, July 25th, 2017, at 5pm PT, 8pm ET on DirecTV

By Gabrielle Pantera

HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Daily Star) 2017/ 7/25 –  “Shark gatherings range depending on species and environment, as well as our general areas of field research,”says Shark Swarm star Riley Elliott. “The largest, well documented gathering is the Blacktip sharks off Florida. Others include Hammerheads in Cocos Island and Reef sharks in places like Tahiti. What has been interesting in this documentary, is the exploration of lesser known shark gatherings, especially with the pelagic species.”

“That they are a fascinating spectacle of social behaviors rarely documented,” says Elliott. “The Blue shark and Mako shark are pelagic predators, meaning the live in the big blue ocean desert, where food is widely distributed so the animals migrate vast distances. All of this means we rarely get chances to improve our understanding of their behavior and biology. Its sad that what we know most about these animals is how many we catch and kill every year. So a chance to look into their social behaviors was truly special and rewarding.”

“We confirmed common scientific understanding about aggregation based on size and gender, but what we added to this was that these rules can be broken when a valuable and rare feeding event presents itself, and then, its not conventional size that matters, it seemed to be the ‘personality’ and individual life experience of the animal, giving each animal a persona first documented controversially in Chimps so famously by Jane Goodall,” says Elliott.

“Generally shark gatherings are for feeding events or breeding, both usually stimulating a single species that occupy that specific niche, to gather,” says Elliott. “In our case however, a unique overlap in niche utilization exists between Blue and Mako sharks, because they have evolved total opposite feeding techniques in the same niche.

Think of aeroplanes in the same niche being the sky; Blue sharks are the ‘gliders’ with wide, gangly fins, feeding on squid and small fish predominantly through chemo, electro and vibration receptors; Mako sharks are the ‘fighter planes’, rigid short sharp wigs, high speed maneuverability, required to visually catch fast prey like tuna.”

“Just like humans or any other animal; a resource,” says Elliott. “This can be food; concentrated by specific environmental variables coming together in the specific recipe required. It can be habitat; for security, migration assistance, or simply an easier lifestyle. Or it can be related to reproduction. So all in all, as said, not to dissimilar to humans lol.”

“Global warming has been shown to alter the path of oceanic currents, related to wind and heating processing shifting or changing,” says Elliott. “In better researched pelagic species like tuna, climate change has shown, and is predicted to further alter the path and distribution of oceanic currents in which the tuna live in. Pelagic sharks like Blue and Mako sharks, also move with similar relation to water bodies, so in short, yes climate change will likely affect their distribution. This is why satellite tagging studies like my doctoral work, enable habitat use prediction models to be generated, helping us understand there potential changes.”

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