London, March 25 : A new research has suggested that sharks could be used to save lives by giving advance warning of storms, as they can sense minute changes in air pressure and head for the safety of deeper waters when a storm is brewing.
According to a report in the Telegraph, Lauren Smith, a marine biology student from the Aberdeen University, carried out the research in the Bahamas.
Sharks' sensitivity to atmospheric conditions was first noticed in 2001 when the approach of Hurricane Gabrielle in Florida led to juvenile blacktip sharks fleeing from the shallow shoreline.
The research said that a drop in air pressure - a sign of imminent bad weather - is mirrored in the pressure of the water, which sharks can sense.
"The shark's inner ear is very similar to ours; if we go up in an aeroplane our ears pop due to the equalisation of pressures and the same thing goes on with a shark," said Smith.
"There is a nerve which runs from the inner ear straight to the brain and relays pressure change information. They react to that. It's an early warning system," she added.
Smith carried out her research on lemon sharks in the Bahamas, using acoustic tags and GPS technology to track their movements.
She recreated the weather conditions at the National Hyperbaric Centre in Aberdeen, enabling her to prove her theory with the help of lesser spotted dogfish, a relation of the lemon shark. It is believed to be the first work of its kind to test the theory.
Lemon sharks were shown to sense changes in air pressure and head for deeper waters before a storm.
According to Smith, the research could be used to give advance warning of storms.
"Juvenile sharks live in shallow coastal waters along the coastline and if you had monitoring stations or underwater cameras you could observe them migrating to deeper waters," she said.