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Shark Speed Dating

Updated: Sep 18, 2022

Basking sharks go round in circles searching for love, scientists discover.


A circle of sharks might sound like the last place you’d want to find yourself in the middle of. But there’s a romantic reason behind this rarely seen formation, scientists have found. Basking sharks spotted circling off the west coast of Ireland were engaged in ‘shark speed dating’, according to marine biologists from the Marine Biological Association and the Irish Basking Shark Group.


The species wouldn’t be interested in you anyway: basking sharks are slow-moving ocean giants which can grow up to 12 metres in length and feed on microscopic animals called zooplankton.


A torus of basking sharks
Credit: Simon Berrow | Irish Basking Shark Group

As is true of shark species the world over, humans have done far more damage to their kind than they have ever done in return. Throughout much of the twentieth century in the north-east Atlantic, basking sharks were hunted for their liver oil and fins, dramatically reducing their population.


It’s hoped the new insight into the gentle giant’s ‘love dance’ will encourage further conservation measures in European waters, where they remain endangered.

 

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