Picture of picture of shark feeding on school of small fish.

Of shark moves, shell shocks, and trash landings on the moon

Surprising science news includes risks to conch shells, flavors from flowers, and confirmation of new moon craters and shark behaviors.

A rare image captures a whale shark feeding on fish that other predators have driven into a defensive “bait ball.”
Photograph by Tom Cannon

Hunting with speedier species

Video taken at Australia’s Ningaloo Reef shows that whale sharks can hunt baitfish in tandem with other predators. Whale sharks are known to chase fish on their own, but they’re relatively slow swimmers. When speedier animals, such as tuna and diving birds, force prey into a defensive ball, the largest mouth gets the most fish. This behavior, rarely documented, may be a way for the giant sharks to save energy while foraging. —Sarah Keartes

Shells suffer from liberal harvesting

Horse conchs, America’s largest sea snails, are at higher risk of extinction after a century of unregulated harvesting of their shells, a new study finds. Using chemical isotopes from conch shells to gauge age and reproductive maturity, scientists found that females spawn late in life. Overharvesting could cost many that chance. Though the horse conch is Florida’s state seashell, gathering it there isn’t limited—a step that could help save it, says study author Gregory S. Herbert. —Cynthia Barnett

Lunar trash landing

Pow! When a wayward chunk of space junk slammed into the moon’s back side on March 4, it was blown to smithereens while adding fresh gouges to an already considerable collection of lunar dents. We know that much because space-watchers could track the errant rocket body with enough precision to predict its final resting place: Hertzsprung crater. But precisely where the space trash crashed near that 354-mile-wide pockmark was a mystery—until May, when NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped an image of a fresh double crater near Hertzsprung’s northeast rim. As lunar exploration revs up, experts see a need for better tracking of objects in deep space and regulations for disposing of used rocket parts. “At some point in the future, an event like this isn’t just going to be a curious thing to observe,” says space archaeologist Alice Gorman of Australia’s Flinders University. “It’s going to be something which people in lunar orbit or on the surface of the moon are going to be really worried about.” —Nadia Drake

Nature’s tastemaker

By studying petunias, biochemists at Purdue University have unlocked the process that forms benzaldehyde, the second most used compound in the flavor industry. The discovery could lead to all-natural versions of popular flavorings and aromas, including almond and cherry. —Hicks Wogan

It’s National Geographic SharkFest’s 10th anniversary! Check July and August listings to find the apex predators on ABC, ESPN, Nat Geo, and NG WILD channels, or streaming on Hulu, Disney XD, TVE, and Disney+.

These stories appear in the August 2022 issue of National Geographic magazine.

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