Scientists say they have identified the first known omnivorous shark species, with 60 per cent of its diet consisting of seagrass. The finding, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, overturns the idea that all sharks are exclusive meat-eaters.
Bonnethead sharks happily graze upon seagrass, in addition to eating bony fish, crabs, snails and shrimp according to researchers from the University of California, Irvine in the US.
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The researchers caught five bonnethead sharks and brought them to the lab. They were fed on a three-week diet of the seagrass and squid. The scientists ran a series of tests on the sharks.
The researchers analysed the sharks' dietary habits after reading reports of the fish chomping on seagrass, the flowering marine plant that forms subsea meadows in some coastal waters. They retrieved sea grass from Florida Bay and hauled it back to the lab where they re-planted it.
Lacking the kind of teeth best suited for mastication, the shark may rely on strong stomach acids to weaken the plants' cells so the enzymes can have their digestive effects, researchers said.
Bonnethead sharks are smaller in size compared to the specie standards. However, adult females of the bonnethead specie can reach an impressive five feet long.
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The bonnethead shark is mostly found in the shallow waters of the Western Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico.