More Info On those "docile" Seven-gills

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Posted by Patrick on April 29, 2010 at 09:16:31:

This was taken from the message board of Scuba Diving, San Diego, and I found it pretty interesting as we have come across seven-gills fairly often on the south side of Redondo Canyon.

As promised, I am posting the response from Vallorie Hodges, the DSO up at the Oregon
Coastal Aquarium verbatim here--I think it speaks for itself. I'm also going to send it out
to other local dive lists--this is an important warning, because we don't want anyone getting hurt.

Please, please, please heed her advice.......she works with these animals on a daily basis and knows what she's talking about.


From Vallorie Hodges, DSO of the Oregon Coastal Aquarium, Thursday, 4-29-10:

Q: What does this 'bumping behavior' mean?

"Definitely not trying to be friends! In our program, bumping is considered a serious aggressive and threatening behavior. In our exhibits we would be very concerned and exit the water immediately. And that is with captive conditioned 7gills.

In the wild I would consider this behavior even more concerning, and any diver experiencing it should immediately move clear of the area. Remember that these animals are more than capable of biting large 5ft leopard sharks in half (and have done so in our exhibits). They can and do make short work of seals and other large prey in the wild as well. Also keep in mind that they are strongly instinctively driven, particularly when it comes to foraging. Is bumping territoriality or feeding/foraging or just checking out the diver? I don’t know, and while as a scientist it is intellectually an interesting question, for purposes of the diver in the water, it frankly doesn’t matter what is in the grey matter of these animals. The clear fact is: if they are bumping it is not a good thing, so clear out.

With so many sightings now occurring, it is time to spread the word: Give way, get out of the way, take only photos and video and DO NOT EVER touch them. Do not pursue them, corner them or threaten them in any way. And did I say it once? Let me say it again, do not touch them! They can reach their tails in an “I-am-not-kidding-micro-second”. And the slow swimming pattern and docile appearance belies the horrifically quick movement they are capable of. As humans we can get complacent very quickly, and we tend to be overly confident, even arrogant and certainly tend to apply human characteristics to things around us. That is a mistake with sharks. Anthropomorphization is not helpful.

It is also likely that the more contact they have with divers in the wild the more they will be conditioned to respond to other divers in similar fashion, so please help spread the word to all divers to help conserve and respect this animal – we should all be acting as stewards of the ocean! Tell others to observe them quietly and vigilantly from a distance and recognize them for the amazing animals they are. They can appear extremely docile but are still top predators with physical capabilities extraordinaire. It is their space, so share it wisely and respectfully! An error on one diver’s part that results in an injury will potentially have terrible consequences for these animals, and certainly poison public opinion about this graceful and ecologically important species. So encourage everyone to do their part!

Edited by Michael Bear on Apr 29, 2010 9:12 AM

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