A Little Less Baffled By Basking Sharks

via Wired Science (c) Nick Caloyianis

I tell my students all the time: It might seem that we collectively know a lot about the wildlife that inhabit our oceans. However, the truth is that for every question we can answer there are hundreds, even thousands, of questions that no one can answer.. yet.

Basking shark biology, and the enduring mystery of where they go in the wintertime, is just one question researchers could ask but – until recently – could not answer. Wired Science posted a great summation of a journal article published in Current Biology. Using satellite-linked data collecting tags researchers were able to backtrack through the logs and of data concerning time, depth, temperature, and light level to suss out a Caribbean location for basking sharks in winter. Which of course is entirely intriguing and inspires at least a dozen questions from me alone!

Even more bizarre, the team’s data loggers reveal that some of the sharks spent a considerable amount of time at depth – up to an astonishing 3,000 feet. As Wired reported, “One shark remained at a depth of nearly 600 feet for upwards of five months.” These animals are thought to consume their meals in the same way that whale sharks do – by filtering tremendous water volumes to consume plankton. Plankton tends to be concentrated near the surface layers of the ocean where there is plenty of sunlight to drive their growth. So what does a basking shark eat in the relative twilight of six-hundred feet if they stay for five months? Was it eating at all? Marine snow perhaps? And why stay down there for all that time?

The ocean is an incredible place. Complex, intricately connected systems and wildlife; most of which we know only enough about to tantalize the imagination.


4 Responses to “A Little Less Baffled By Basking Sharks”

  1. Testing the commenting features.

  2. Testing them again.

  3. One more time.. for the win!! WaterNotes