In the first part of this series of three posts we talked about 5 of the 90 sharks that occasionally show up in the Mediterranean Sea. In this second part we will talk about five equally spectacular shark species: the basking shark, the spinner shark, the silky shark, the school shark and the shortfin mako shark.
6. Basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus)
The basking shark is the second largest shark after the whale shark. It is a pelagic shark but can also be spotted near the coast, in shallow waters, almost always with his big mouth opened trying to filter plankton, small fish and crustaceans. Adult specimens weighing up to four tons and measuring 10 meters long are capable of filtering 2,000 tons of water every hour.
Its slow movements and human tolerance have facilitated indiscriminate hunting for their meat and to make oil from its huge liver, which represents the 20% of its weight and performs a key role in its buoyancy. Today the basking shark is listed as threatened species by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
Although they prefer cold waters, basking sharks can be found in all oceans. It is possible to find it in the Mediterranean coasts as these lucky guys did in Malaga (south of Spain). They were accompanied for a few seconds by a huge basking shark.
7. Spinner shark (Carcharhinus brevipinna)
The spinner shark is a coastal shark that inhabits depths up to 100 meters but prefers to feed in shallow water, around 30 meters. The color of their fins makes it easy to mistake it for blacktip sharks, but these are smaller than the blackfin shark, which can reach 3 meters in length.
They feed on large schools of herring, sardines or anchovies, attacking the big schools with fast movements. They also hunt cephalopods, mollusks and even rays. Although it is not dangerous to humans because it does not have large teeth and its mouth is small, it is dangerous to approach them when they are feeding because of their swift and aggressive hunting technique. This shark uses a common hunting strategy shared with other sharks: attacking at high speed from the bottom being able of jump out of the water due to the fast and power of the attacks… this is the reason why it is called the spinner shark, because when it jumps out of the water they spin several times on the air.
In the Mediterranean Sea they can only be found in the North African coast. Although commercial fishing has been intense, the greatest danger for this shark lies is the degradation and pollution of their coastal habitats, but is not in serious danger of extinction.
8. Silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis)
This shark is named after the texture of its very smooth and soft skin. Of all the species of this series of Mediterranean sharks, this one is possibly the most difficult to see in as it only penetrates very slightly in the Strait of Gibraltar and also because it is a species that spends most of his time around 50 meters of depth.
It is a migratory shark measuring up to 2.5 meters long which feeds mainly on schools of tuna and sardines but that it does not reject the opportunity to hunt some octopus or squids. There have been cases of attacks on divers and it is quite aggressive to humans, so it’s best not to get too close to these animals if an accidental encounter happens, which, on the other hand, is not very likely because they spend most of their life at open sea.
9. School shark (Galeorhinus galeus)
If you’ve ever been to Andalusia it’s possible you’ve eaten marinated school shark (called «cazón en adobo» in Spanish), and you did not know you were eating a shark. The school shark lives at depths of between 40 and 400 meters. Their fins are also highly prized for making shark fin soup. The shark inhabits the Mediterranean Sea and continuity in our seas is not in danger. It is a shark that lives near the bottom of the sea and reaches 2 meters long when adult. It feeds on cephalopods, crustaceans, and other demersal areas fish (which live attached to the bottom) like echinoderms and sea worms.
10. Shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus)
The shortfin mako shark lives in almost every ocean of the world. Belonging to the same family as the white shark, the lamnidae family, is not hard to realize that we are talking about a large, aggressive shark that can grow to 4.5 meters in length and can weigh up to 750 kilograms, making it a powerful and fast fish. In fact it is one of the fastest ocean predators, capable of reaching speeds of up to 75 km/h.
Being a pelagic shark is not common to see it near the coast although it is certainly possible when searching for food. In case it is not clear yet, it is a dangerous shark, and you must be very careful if you find it while diving. There have even been cases of attacks on boats. It is a species that is not in danger of extinction although it is vulnerable.