A flatback sea turtle has been caught on camera aggressively fending off a tiger shark attack.
Historically, sea turtles have been seen as placid creatures that hide behind their protective shell at the sign of danger, but this new footage from Murdoch University's Harry Butler Institute and the WA DBCA challenges this view.
The interaction was captured using novel 'smart tags' akin to wearing an action camera coupled with a Fitbit, which were attached to the sea turtle.
PhD Candidate Jenna Hounslow from Murdoch University's Harry Butler Institute said it was not surprising that a tiger shark would attempt to kill and eat a sea turtle, considering they were one of the main prey items of tiger sharks.
"What amazed me was to see the turtle aggressively defending itself by attempting to bite the attacking shark," Ms Hounslow said.
The footage was captured as part of a larger project of the WA DBCA Marine Science Program, in conjunction with the Yawuru Joint Management program (between the Yawuru Native Title Prescribed Body Corporate (PBC) and DBCA), as well as the participation of the Yawuru Country Managers.
The project studies turtle foraging behaviour in Roebuck Bay in Western Australia, in the hope of revealing the poorly understood lives of flatback turtles on their feeding grounds.
The findings from the video encourage the use of contemporary technology to observe sea animals more closely in future research projects.
Ms Hounslow explained aggression and fighting behaviour may have been previously overlooked as anti-predator behaviour in sea turtles.
"This is simply because documenting an animal's point of view for extended periods underwater has only recently become possible."
Dr Sabrina Fossette from WA DBCA added that many aspects of the lifecycle of flatback turtles are still relatively unknown to science.
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"This new technology offers us unparalleled insight into what these turtles do when they are at sea away from their nesting beaches, which represents the largest portion, yet most poorly understood, aspect of their lives," Dr Fossette said.
"Unlike land tortoises, sea turtles cannot fully withdraw into their shell," Ms Hounslow said.
"We suspect the aggressive behaviour is simply a means to reduce the chances of being eaten when the shell does not offer full protection. On this occasion, the turtle was able to escape the shark unscathed."