Marine animals become filmmakers
March 6, 1996
Web posted at: 2:00 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Lori Waffenschmidt
(CNN) -- Imagine Jaws with a camera strapped to his back,
filming his own movements as he navigates through the ocean.
It seems far-fetched, even for Hollywood.
But in real life, some aquatic animals are darting through
the sea with cameras, shooting films as they go. A camera
dubbed the "Crittercam" lets scientists examine animal
behaviors better than ever.
The "Crittercam" can be attached to animals such as the
Hawaiian monk seal or sharks, enabling researchers to
watch the world from the animal's point of view.
"We're using this new camera system, this 'Crittercam'
technology, to go out and see from the animal's perspective
how it engages its environment," says Gregg Marshall, the
Because divers often alter an animal's behavior, the
"Crittercam" has provided scientists with important and
For nearly 10 years, the population of Hawaiian monk seals
has been declining, and conventional equipment did little to
reveal the reasons why. With information gained from
"Crittercam," researchers hope to reverse the trend. (513K QuickTime movie)
Marshall explains that with "Crittercam," researchers can
predict when the seal will return to the beach. (114K AIFF sound or
114K WAV sound)
Once that happens, researchers can recapture the animal and
remove the camera, or they can use a remote to trigger the
camera to fall off.
For sharks and other animals that don't come ashore, the
camera is designed to detach automatically. A radio
transmitter then helps the crew locate and recover the
"One twist that we haven't taken yet is to train animals to
carry these systems to go out and study other animals,"
Jim Harvey, however, is doing just that. He's training sea
lions to film whales.
For six years, Harvey, an assistant professor at Moss Landing
Laboratories in California, has been training California sea
lions to respond to human commands. His experiment is now
diving one step further. The sea lion is learning to swim
parallel to whales 30 feet away.
If everything goes well, the sea lions will be filming by the
summer. However, the experiment may sink soon: Harvey says
he's running out of money.