If basking sharks were like Canadians, their migration habits might be easily explained: head south to avoid winter’s chill, and north again to enjoy summer’s warmth.
It turns out basking sharks are a more complex puzzle, Western biology professor Paul Mensink and his colleagues discovered while examining the seasonal movements of the enormous fish.
Mensink and fellow researchers at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland tracked four basking sharks – so large they can reach the size of a school bus – off the northernmost tip of Ireland to find out where they over-winter, and why.
They affixed tags that would record the sharks’ location, along with water temperature and depth.
“The assumption was that they swim to Ireland’s coastal waters for the summer, because of its really productive feeding areas, and then take off for the south in winter where it’s warmer. We initially thought that water temperature must be the trigger for them to leave,” Mensink said.
“They blew our assumptions out of the water.”
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