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29 августа 2018, 11:56

Scientists Rely on Public Sightings to Track Mysterious Shark Species

Stay on target

Like the Loch Ness Monster*, basking sharks ( Cetorhinus maximus ) are a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

Despite their massive size, these plankton-eating creatures—the second-largest living shark—continue to mystify oceanographers.

The gentle giants are hunted for food, fins, animal feed, and their oily, oily livers; overexploitation has reduced populations to the point of vulnerability, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

At this rate, scientists may never fully understand basking sharks.

“It’s a shark that remains very mysterious,” Alexandra Rohr, of the French research group APECS, told AFP.

Rohr and her colleagues are attempting to track the slow-moving feeders, named for their habit of gorging at the surface, appearing to bask in the warmer water.

By monitoring the animals during this dining ritual, the team hopes to find out more about the sharks’ population, nomadic patterns, and reproductive behavior. Rohr & Co. have already discovered evidence of a wider migratory range than previously thought.

One tagged female, for instance, was first spotted off the coast of northern Scotland in September 2016; she resurfaced four months later near the Canary Islands. By May 2017, the shark had returned to the Bay of Biscay, south of APECS headquarters.

The Association relies heavily on crowdsourced information from divers, sailors, and others members of the public. Folks like Alain Quemere, who observed a basking shark during a fishing trip in the Glenan archipelago and reported details to APECS, enabling researchers to fit the fish with a satellite tracker.

“I just saw the tip of his fin,” Quemere told AFP. “One moment it grazed the front of the boat, which made me laugh because my boat is barefly [18 feet] and the shark was [26 feet].”


Using new technology, APECS tagged four sharks so far this year, in addition to the three they deployed in 2016. But there is plenty more work to be done: That’s not even 10 percent of the approximately 77 basking sharks seen last year.

“You have the impression of seeing a wise old grandfather,” Frederic Bassemayousse, a diver and photographer who’s spotted the sharks three times, explained to AFP. “It is beautiful.”

Find out why you shouldn’t trust everything you see on Shark Week, and learn more about what happens below the ocean’s surface here. And watch MovieBob’s jawesome review of shark-centric The Meg.

* Yes, I will bring it right back to Nessie whenever possible. You have my heart, Niseag.

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Source: https://www.geek.com/news/scientists-rely-on-public-sightings-to-track-mysterious-shark-species-1749742/?source=science