Cameras attached to and ingested by sharks have revealed previously unknown information about how the ocean predator lives.

Researchers from the University of Hawaii and the University of Tokyo fitted the creatures with sensors and video recorders, to see where they were going, how they swim and how they eat.

The cameras have captured unprecedented footage of sharks of different species swimming in schools, interacting with other fish and moving in repetitive loops across the sea bed.

Carl Meyer, an assistant researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said: "What we are doing is really trying to fill out the detail of what their role is in the ocean."

He added: "It is all about getting a much deeper understanding of sharks' ecological role in the ocean, which is important to the health of the ocean and, by extension, to our own well-being."

Shark with tracking device Hawaii
Scientists attached an accelerometer-magnetometer and a digital camera to a bluntnose sixgill shark YouTube

The "shark's eye view" study has also unearthed information about the feeding habits of other animals, such as tuna.

The technology, which uses electrical measurements to track ingestion and digestion of prey, can help experts understand where, when and what sharks and other aquatic animals eat.

It is already known that sharks have a keen sense of smell and can feel vibrations in the water, which help them detect their prey easily. However, the creatures remain one of the least understood ocean predators. Until now, sharks have mainly been studied in captivity, rather than in their natural habitat.

The latest research has revealed sharks use powered swimming to propel themselves through the water, rather than a gliding motion. This is contrary to what scientists previously believed. Furthermore, deep-sea sharks were found to swim in slow motion, in comparison to species dwelling in shallow water.

Meyer said the instruments used are similar to "flight data recorders for sharks". He added: "They allow us to quantify a variety of different things that we haven't been able to quantify before."

"It has really drawn back the veil on what these animals do and answered some longstanding questions."

Meyer noted that sharks are at the top of the ocean food chain, which makes them a fundamental part of the marine ecosystem. The recent study, along with further research, will help scientists understand the flow of energy through the ocean.

These new observations could help shape conservation and resource management efforts, and inform public safety measures. Meyer and Kim Holland, also a researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, presented the new research at the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting.