Talk about an immersive video: Panoramic footage posted to Instagram that shows a big tiger shark chomping on an Insta360 camera provides a rare and extended closeup between the jaws of one of nature’s most fearsome apex predators.
The clip with live audio shows two large sharks swimming near a camera that’s resting on a white-sand sea bottom in shallow, sunlit water. One shark glides straight toward the camera, jostles it briefly between rows of razor-sharp teeth, then takes the entire thing inside its mouth. Remarkably, the camera continues to record as the shark chomps on the device for 15 seconds or so, treating viewers to a wide-angle view of teeth, gill slits, and the opening to the shark’s esophagus. When the fish spits out the camera, it lands in perfect position to frame the beast as it swims away.
The video was posted to Instagram by @zimydakid, one of the founders of Deep Sea Guardians, “a crew of creators using the power of images to protect the creatures of the deep.” The group hosts shark-diving expeditions, advocates for an end to shark-finning, and captures underwater footage meant to drive home—in a more immediate way than scientific reports stuffed with data—the multiple dangers that threaten ocean ecosystems.
Sharks are known to mouth unfamiliar objects to learn more about them, but it’s not the sense of taste they are relying on. “The taste organs of a shark are not as highly adapted as their other senses, because taste doesn’t help them find food,” according to the conservation organization Shark Trust. Instead, electroreceptors called ampullae of Lorenzini (jelly-filled sensory organs that form small pores covering the snout, visible in the video when the shark first grasps the camera in its mouth) detect tiny electrical currents given off by prey.
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A shark’s teeth contain pressure-sensitive nerves that function like a sense of touch to help them gather information. In fact, scientists think that many shark bites inflicted on humans are due to this exploratory behavior rather than an intent to feed. “Being highly inquisitive creatures, this can cause a lot of problems,” says the Shark Trust website. “A ‘test bite’ from a large shark can be fatal to unintended prey such as humans.”
As for the camera, @zimydakid reported that “It got away with just a couple of scratches.”