BRITISH SHARKS – AND WHY THEY’RE AWESOME
March 3rd, 2020
British waters are often overlooked: the water is undeniably cold, frequently murky, and seemingly familiar. It’s easy to be enticed by exotic underwater life, but Events Coordinator Paul is fiercely proud of our native marine creatures and, in particular, a group of animals who get more than their fair share of bad press. In honour of World Wildlife Day, Paul takes you through his favourite locals.
Sharks! What comes to mind? Say the first thing you thought of out loud so you can’t cheat and change your mind.
Done? I’ll bet you thought of one these:
There’s no shame if you did – sharks have got a strong brand image – but this stereotyping is nothing but fishcious rumours.
If I was wrong and you were thinking ‘beautiful’, ‘misunderstood’, or ‘Ampullae of Lorenzini’ then I take my hat off to you, but you’re in the minority.
There are over 400 species of shark found all over the world and at least 32 right here in the UK. With such a variety of shapes, sizes and lifestyles, I think it’s time you gave sharks (and British underwater life) another chance. I get excited whenever somebody mentions sharks, but it’s an excitement that comes from a deep curiosity and respect rather than a fear factor. That’s not to say they can’t be scary – just look at the goblin shark.
So, here is my definitive, o-fish-al list of the best British sharks, free from media sensationalism with just a little bit of bias. I hope one of them can be your new go-to shark!
1. BLUE SHARK
Blue sharks are highly migratory, swimming up to 9,000km in a single trip and visiting the UK in Spring and Summer. The south west is a great place to spot these gentle, inquisitive sharks. However, while their sportsmanship is impressive, they’re number one because of their frankly ridiculous cuteness – just look at those eyes! Who says you need to be furry to be cute? Move over kittens, the blue shark is in town.
2. BASKING SHARK
‘Great whites are cool because they’re big’ you say? Well say hello to the basking shark! Growing to 10m (and reports of individuals up to 12m), these are comfortably the biggest fish in the UK and the second biggest in the world (behind whale sharks, but it’s too cold for them here).
3. SHORTFIN MAKO
Jessica Ennis-Hill, Usain Bolt, Flash Gordon – all undeniably cool, all undeniably fast. It’s time to add the shortfin mako to the cool running (swimming) club. The fastest shark on the block can reach over 30mph as it hunts some of the fastest fish in our ocean: tuna and swordfish.
4. GREENLAND SHARK
Let’s slow things down a little. Actually, let’s slow them down a lot. Life in cold water is necessarily ‘chilled’, but that makes crossing things off your to-do list a long job. That’s no biggie for Greenland sharks, who are masters of the slow life and can live for at least 300 years and potentially as long as 500 years. *Five hundred* years.
5. THRESHER SHARK
Thresher sharks use their elongated tail like a whip to stun prey and scoop up an easy meal. I can appreciate an animal that works smarter, not harder. However, they make it onto the list for another mean feat, threshers are one of a few species that can leap clear out of the water!
6. ANGEL SHARK
I know what you’re thinking, and no, they’re not just on the list because of the great name. Angel sharks are the masters of ambush, lying completely still under the sand until an unsuspecting fish swims too close. Angels use spiracles (modified gills on the top of their head) to breathe without disturbing the sand and ensuring they stay completely hidden. I love angel sharks because they’re a great example of how similar sharks and rays can be… and the name is pretty cool too.
7. PORBEAGLE SHARK
What’s that, you still want great whites on the list? Fine, here’s its cousin.