Australia: 'Shark predator': Great hammerhead's ecosystem role revealed in pioneer University of Newcastle research
IT may be a dog-eat-dog world, but the willingness of great hammerhead sharks to eat their cousins has helped illuminate the species' 'crucial' role in the food chain.
A University of Newcastle study carried out in conjunction with Macquarie University is the first of its kind to determine where large adult great hammerhead sharks stand in coastal food chains.
Marine ecologists discovered the animals are apex predators in the coastal ecosystem because they devour other sharks and rays as a specialty.
Lead researcher Dr Vincent Raoult said he was hopeful declining shark populations could be better protected thanks to the research, having dropped 90 per cent over five decades.
"What our research has found is that the great hammerhead shark is in fact the 'shark predator', it confirms that they are at the top of the food chain and highlights that their role in our coastal ecosystem is absolutely crucial," Dr Raoult said.
"Apex predators keep the balance of our ecosystem in check, they keep it healthy, so this discovery about the great hammerhead really emphasises its importance.