Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mystery of Basking Shark Habits Uncovered

It's about time someone tracked one of these beautiful creatures!

Britain's biggest shark species has been tracked for the first time for thousands of miles from waters southwest of the Isle of Man to Canada.

Until now little was known about endangered basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus) when they moved outside British waters, but scientists have confirmed that the animals travel huge distances and plunder deep waters for food. The discoveries were made with the help of two sharks, known as A and B, who were tagged last year.

The detailed pattern of movements will now enable scientists to identify new ways to protect sharks from harm in British waters. There is still a risk of hunting in other waters, however, because of the shark's highly valued fins, which are a delicacy in some countries.

Mauvis Gore, who is involved in the project, said: "Such long-distance migrations have implications for population genetics. Despite protective legislation, the numbers in the northeast Atlantic may show only limited recovery if mature adults are exposed to exploitation in other oceanic regions."

The basking shark is the second-largest shark after the tropical whale shark (Rhincodon typus). It can grow to 12m (40ft) long.

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