Scientists invent device that sends baby shark birth announcements

Scientists invent device that sends baby shark birth announcements

Scientists invent device that sends baby shark birth announcements

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Congratulations, it’s a bunch of bouncing baby sharks! Shark science is taking a big step forward with an innovative device called a birth alert tag, or BAT, which tracks where pregnant sharks have their babies.


Knowing where and when sharks give birth could help with conservation and protection measures. “We’ve been trying to do this since we started studying sharks,” Arizona State University marine biologist James Sulikowski said in a statement Wednesday. “It’s our holy grail. We have really advanced shark science, 20, 30, 40 years old.”

The Birth Alert Beacon is a small device that accompanies the ride when a shark gives birth.

James Sulikowski

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature – custodian of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species – a 2021 study found that nearly 36% of the 536 assessed shark species are threatened with extinction. Overfishing and the demands of the shark fin trade are causing much of the pressure. Shark fins are used in medicinal preparations or as food.

A paper published Wednesday in Science Advances details the use of the satellite BAT device in pregnant sharks. Researchers capture a shark and then insert a BAT through the animal’s cloacal opening (where babies come out). The small egg-shaped device drags inside the shark until it gives birth. It then floats to the surface and transmits a birth announcement with time and location.

The team successfully used the device in a tiger shark and a hammerhead shark, two sharks known to travel long distances.

Scientists have also learned something new about sand sharks, finding that they like to give birth in abandoned shipwrecks. “It was a total surprise,” Sulikowski said. “For most shark species, we have no idea where they give birth or how far they have to travel to reach habitats that are essential for their survival.”

The research team sees BAT playing an important role in shark conservation. “Once habitats are discovered,” ASU said, efforts will be made to protect these areas, either by creating sanctuaries or by expanding areas already set aside for this purpose.


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