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A new study published by researchers found the bonnethead shark to be the world’s first known omnivorous shark.
Scientists from the University of California in Irvine and Florida International University in Miami found that the bonnethead sharks were eating seagrass, a flowering marine plant, to build and maintain their livelihood.
As it has been long understood that all sharks are exclusive meat eaters, researchers were skeptical of reports that claimed the sharks were munching on vegetation.
“It has been assumed by most that this consumption was incidental and that it provided no nutritional value,” Samantha Leigh, a researcher on a team, tells The Guardian. “I wanted to see how much of this seagrass diet the sharks could digest, because what an animal consumes is not necessarily the same as what it digests and retains nutrients from.”
After running a series of tests on the sharks, they found that the fish successfully digested seagrass with enzymes and could use the nutrients from the plant to their benefit. Researchers predict that the bonnethead shark could make the seagrass plant up to 60% of their diet.
“This has implications for fragile and crucial seagrass meadow habitat management,” Leigh tells the outlet. “We should be taking a closer look at what animals are consuming, digesting and excreting in their environments around the world, because it impacts the habitats we depend on as well.”
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