Giant basking sharks take tropical vacations

May 9th, 2009 - 1:00 pm ICT by ANI  

National Geographic Washington, May 9 (ANI): In a new research, scientists have found out that the reason behind the basking sharks’ mysterious disappearance from the cool waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans is because the marine species take tropical vacations.

According to a report in National Geographic News, the study shows that the sharks, which grow up to 32 feet (10 meters) long, make vast migrations to deep, warm-water hideouts.

Previously, the sharks were thought to inhabit only temperate waters.

Before the annual winter disappearance, scientists tagged 25 basking sharks off New England with floating, timed-release satellite transmitters.

Swimming at depths of between 600 and at least 3,000 feet (200 and 1,000 meters), some of the fish moved to Florida. But, others kept on going south-thousands of miles, in some cases.

“When a tag popped up in the Caribbean Sea, I was really blown away,” said study co-author Gregory Skomal, a marine biologist from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

One shark even crossed the Equator to the mouth of the Amazon River off Brazil, where the fish stayed for a month, according to the study.

As to what exactly is driving these giant sharks to migrate remains a mystery.

The cold-blooded sharks probably leave the Gulf of Maine seeking warmer waters and more abundant plankton, their main food, Skomal explained.

One theory is that they’re heading to undiscovered nursery grounds.

Scientists have never seen a young basking shark. “We still have no idea where they give birth,” Skomal said.

According to Skomal, the new discovery could help address threats facing the sharks.

“We hope to develop a program of how best to move forward in working out just what is happening with populations of basking sharks worldwide,” said Marine Conservation International’s Gore. (ANI)

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