Satellite Tracking Gives Insight Into Basking Shark’s Behavior

Posted: Feb 21 2017, 9:30am CST | by , Updated: Feb 21 2017, 9:35am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

Satellite Tracking Gives Insight into Basking Shark’s Behavior
 

Contrary to the popular belief basking sharks do not hibernate in winters

Basking shark is the world’s second largest fish after the whale shark. It can grow up to 36 feet and is one of the few sharks that feed on planktons.

During the summer season, these sharks are found eating tiny planktons in temperate coastal waters, however, very little is known about their habits in winter.

Researchers from University of Exeter have discovered that some basking sharks head to Spain, Portugal and North Africa during the winters while others prefer to stay at home in and around the waters off UK and Ireland, contradicting the theory that these giant sharks hibernate in the water at this time of the year.

"Knowing where these animals are all year round allows us to understand the threats they face. This is essential information if we want to protect them, especially as they swim far outside UK waters, meaning any conservation efforts must be international." Lead study author Philip Doherty from University of Exeter said in a statement.

Several basking sharks have been tagged during the summer of 2012, 2013 and 2014 in an effort to track their movements. Of those, 28 tagged sharks continued transmitting signals for more than five months and helped researchers indentify key migratory corridor for the fish.

Researchers found most sharks either remain close to UK and Scotland or swim to the southern waters during the winters. Some also spent their winters in the Bay of Biscay in France. Those which travel to south comeback to UK coast in spring and early summer.

"This huge and mysterious shark has intrigued us as a nation for many years, and evolving tagging technology is now allowing us to piece together vital parts of their life cycle,” said Dr Suzanne Henderson from Scottish Natural Heritage and co-author of the research.

“This is shedding new light on their seasonal residency and winter migration, which is key to their conservation.”

Basking sharks have been listed as endangered under IUCN Red List Threatened Species. These sharks are often targeted for food, shark fin and liver oil. Researchers believe these findings will help create a better strategy for this large yet harmless shark species. However, they still face major gaps in their understanding of shark’s overall migratory pattern. 

"We don't yet know whether individuals make the same migration each year or alter their behavior based on factors such as body condition, reproduction and food availability," said co-researcher Dr Matthew Witt.

"The primary drivers behind basking shark migrations are still unclear but they may include mating, searching for foraging grounds and finding water of preferred temperature."

 

 

 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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