Wed 20 Jul 2016, 14:07
Here are the habitats you can find these sea-goers.
10 DIFFERENT HABITATS WHERE YOU CAN FIND SHARKS
Different sharks live in different habitats. Many sharks, like bullheads and smoothhounds, stay near coastlines where there is a lot of food they like to eat. Other sharks, including threshers and oceanic whitetips, roam the open sea where they hunt for bigger fish across miles and miles of ocean. Here are 10 habitats where you can find sharks.
THE INTERTIDAL ZONE
The intertidal zone is the area along the coast exposed by low tide. Intertidal zones are found along beaches and marshes, as well as rocky shores where tidal pools are formed. These are common breeding grounds for plants and small animals. The sharks that live here, including epaulette, Port Jackson and nurse sharks, patrol these shallow waters in search of clams, crabs, algae and starfish.
Estuaries are areas along the coast where freshwater meets saltwater. These areas are mostly enclosed by land, but connected to the sea and fed by freshwater rivers and streams. This results in a brackish mixture that supports a wide diversity of wildlife. A wide variety of sharks, including sandbar sharks, lemon sharks, bull sharks and bonnetheads, commonly hunt in estuaries.
Sandy plains are relatively shallow areas that make up a majority of the continental shelf (the edge of a continent that’s actually underwater). Characterized by soft sand and mud, these areas support a huge variety of small fish, crustaceans and other sea life. Great hammerheads, angel sharks, and sawsharks have keen senses that help them find prey here, even if it’s buried beneath the sands.
At first glance, rocky coasts seem inhospitable to life, but look below the surface and you’ll find most are actually teeming with it. As waves come crashing in to shore, rocks beneath the surface create shelter for tiny animals, and surface area for coral and algae to grow. Scalloped hammerheads, spiny dogfish, white sharks, and basking sharks often live and feed in these kinds of areas.
Kelp is a unique type of seaweed that lives in cool shallow waters. Like trees, they grow in thick, dense stands called kelp forests. Kelp is a source of food and shelter for many types of fish and other sea creatures. Leopard sharks and swellsharks stalk prey in the kelp forests. Hornsharks live here too, and even lay their young in corkscrew-shaped egg cases in the kelp.
Coral reefs cover less than 0.5% of the earth’s surface, yet experts estimate they’re home to 25% of all marine life. They’re second only to tropical rainforests in terms of size and complexity. Caribbean, blacktip, whitetip and gray reef sharks are common and active predators here. Even sharks that don’t have “reef” in their name, like zebra sharks, rely on coral reef communities for food.
OPEN OCEAN (PELAGIC ZONE)
The pelagic zone of the ocean is the biggest habitat on the planet—it has a volume of a whopping 330 million cubic miles! Fish that live in the pelagic zone live in large schools. In order to catch these fish, sharks that live in the open ocean are incredibly fast. Thresher, blue, silky, shortfin mako, and oceanic whitetip sharks are all perfectly designed for this challenging environment.
The ocean is really deep – over 2½ miles on average. Surprisingly, the dark depths are teaming with life – a startling variety of bizarre creature, many of which look like extras in a science fiction film. The sharks that live and hunt at these depths are eerie looking too, like the goblin shark with its nightmarish face, or the eel-like frilled shark, which looks like a miniature sea serpent.
While most sharks prefer warm or temperate water, one shark is built to withstand extreme cold. The Greenland shark lives in the northernmost waters of any shark – the icy seas of the Arctic Circle, where water temperatures can drop to 30° Fahrenheit. Its flesh is enhanced with chemicals that combine to create natural antifreeze to help keep it from turning into an ice pop.
It’s hard to imagine sharks living in freshwater, but they’re there. There are 20 different shark species that can survive in freshwater lakes and rivers, including bull sharks, which have been found in unlikely rivers and lakes all over the world. While bull sharks have to migrate to saltwater to reproduce, five shark species actually live year-round in the rivers of Southeast Asia and Australia.
TOP 16 PLACES TO SEE SHARKS IN THE WILD
Few experiences can compare with seeing a shark up close in its natural environment. If you’re into sharks and not afraid of getting a little wet, here are 16 incredible – and safe – diving experiences around the world where you can get an up-close look at the ocean’s top predators.
COCOS ISLAND, COSTA RICA FOR HAMMERHEADS
About 340 miles off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica is the world’s largest uninhabited island, Cocos Island. The Island was formed by a volcano and is known for its lush vegetation and wildlife. Hundreds of scalloped hammerheads school off the coast of the island, which is a National Park for Coast Rica and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. The area is also popular for giant manta rays, as well as bottlenose dolphins, whale sharks, and lots of schooling fish like tuna.
GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, ECUADOR FOR HAMMERHEADS
Made famous by naturalist Charles Darwin, the Galapagos Islands are 600 miles west of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. The islands are known for their array of wildlife and green scenery. There are 13 major Islands, with 6 smaller islands and a handful of islets and rocks. Hammerheads reside in the islands’ waters, living and hunting in groups. Many scientists are working to conserve the populations of animals, including sharks.
GREAT BLUE HOLE, BELIZE FOR NURSE SHARKS
Sixty miles off the coast of Belize lies a giant underwater sinkhole. This sinkhole is 410 feet deep and 984 feet wide, the length of almost three football fields. The hole is actually a cave underneath the ocean’s surface, made of limestone. Undersea explorer Jacque Cousteau declared it one of the best diving places in the world when he visited in 1971. Nurse sharks are considered “gentle giants” and are prominent in the shallower waters of the hole. Hammerheads, Caribbean reef sharks and blacktip sharks also reside in the Blue Hole’s waters.
PALAWAN, PHILLIPPINES FOR GUITARFISH
This region of islands, with one large main Island, is located just north of Malaysia in the Pacific Ocean. It has been noted for its clean clear waters, beautiful scenery and a diverse array of marine life. Whale sharks are common in this area as are sightings of the bowmouth guitarfish (a close shark relative). Some popular places for shark sightings include the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, a protected area in the middle of the Sulu Sea, and east of the Palawan main island. Tubbataha has two large ring-shaped reefs called atolls where a variety of fish and sharks reside. El Nido is on the northern part of Palawan Island and has a Marine Reserve Park, where a great range of sharks and fish can be spotted. Tara Island, northeast of Palawan, can be a great spot to look for the reef sharks, hammerheads and guitarfish.
SURIN ISLANDS, THAILAND FOR WHALE SHARKS
The Surin Islands are northwest of Thailand’s mainland in the Andaman Sea. The archipelago of five islands are just south of the Thai-Burmese border. The Surin Islands are a Thai National Park and home to lots of wildlife—especially whale sharks. The large spotted sharks are particularly common in this area of Thailand—so much so that locals call the Surin Islands a “whale shark magnet.” Koh Surin Marine Park and Richelieu Rock are particularly popular spots for whale shark watching.
MEXICO’S YUCATAN PENINSULA FOR WHALE SHARKS
Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is a popular vacation destination for vacationers heading to beach resort towns like Cancun. The peninsula is a meeting point between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico and has a lively assortment of wildlife in these waters—especially the large but gentle whale sharks. At the end of the southern tip that turns upward into the Gulf of Mexico lies Isla Holbox, a 27-mile stretch in the Yucatan Channel. The Island has been identified as hosting the world’s largest concentration of whale sharks and is a protected wildlife area.
MAAYA THILA, MALDIVES FOR WHITETIP REEF SHARKS
Just north of the equator in the Indian Ocean, the island nation of Maldives is a group of over 1,000 coral atoll islands. Maaya Thila is one of the most famous diving locations in Maldives and is a protected marine area. A thila is a coral formation, located within a nutrient rich current called a kandu. Whitetip reef sharks reside in the Thila’s warm waters and feed on fish.
BIMINI ISLANDS, BAHAMAS FOR BULL SHARKS
The westernmost islands in the Bahamas, 50 miles from the Florida coast, the Bimini Islands area synonymous with shark diving. Eight-foot-long bull sharks area a popular sighting. There are lots of opportunities to dive with them from inside a cage. Hammerheads are also a regular sighting in Bimini Bay, as well as tiger, mako, nurse, and Caribbean reef sharks.
BEQA LAGOON, FIJI FOR BULL SHARKS
The picturesque Beqa (pronounced Benga) Lagoon is about a 15-minute boat ride from Fiji’s coastal town of Pacific Harbour. With its beautiful coral reefs, Fiji has tons of great spots to dive with sharks and other marine life. As a favourite for many tourists and divers, Beqa Lagoon has become known as one of the best shark diving spots in the world! The tropical blue waters teaming with fish look like something out of a movie. It is home to many bull sharks, white and blacktip reef sharks, as well as tiger, silvertip, nurse, and lemon sharks.
OBAN, SCOTLAND FOR BASKING SHARKS
On the northwest side of Scotland, the coastal town of Oban is on the eastern end of the Sound of Mull and Sound of Kerrera. The basking shark looks like something almost prehistoric – with its dark thick skin and short snout. The sharks feed on smaller sea animals like plankton eats and swims with its mouth wide open. The sharks migrate up to Scotland’s waters to feed and are also believed to mate during summer months.
RHODE ISLAND, USA FOR BLUE AND MAKO SHARKS
For a tiny state, Rhode Island has many seaside towns. Its unique location along the Atlantic Ocean makes it a great spot for catching a glimpse of blue sharks and shortfin mako sharks. The waters warm up in summer months, making them a cozy destination for sharks. Boats take off from southern ports like Point Judith and Narragansett Bay as well as outlying Block Island for shark watching.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, USA FOR SHORTFIN MAKOS
With their rapid speed, shortfin mako sharks can travel with ease along coastal waters. They have been spotted all over the world, but have developed a particular liking for the warm Pacific waters of Southern California, especially San Diego. Young makos are commonly found in these waters and scientists believe that female makos travel to this area to have their pups.
MONAD SHOAL, PHILLIPPINES FOR THRESHER SHARKS
The Phillipine Island of Malapacua is reported to be the only place in the world for divers to see thresher sharks on a regular basis. Monad Shoal is an underwater island on the edge of a 650-foot drop off! With a population of electro parasite-eating fish like bluestreak and moon cleaner wrasse, the shoal is a cleaning station for larger fish, and a feeding spot for the thresher shark.
FALSE BAY, SOUTH AFRICA FOR GREAT WHITE SHARKS
South Africa’s False Bay, just opposite from Cape Town on Cape Peninsula, is a mecca for great white sharks, and hosts the infamous Seal Island. The overwhelming presence of Cape fur seals in these waters creates a smorgasbord for the great whites, which literally leap out the water (a display known as breaching) for a bite of seal. A ring outside of Seal Island is known as the “Ring of Death” – it is the certified sweet spot for sharks preying on seals, which swim and hunt for fish in False Bay.
FLORIDA COAST, USA FOR LEMON SHARKS
Jupiter, Florida, north of West Palm Beach, is a popular destination for the large and powerful lemon shark. Here, the Gulf Stream brings warm, nutrient-rich water to the coast, making it a rich and vibrant dive location compared to other spots along the east coast of Florida. Lemon sharks are common here during the winter months of December to March, and the spot is believed to be a gathering area for mating.
CAYMAN TRENCH, HONDURAS FOR SIXGILL SHARKS
A unique species of shark – the sixgill shark—lives in the deepest part of the Caribbean Sea, the Cayman Trench, which is located between Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. While most sharks have five gills on their heads on each side of their body, the aptly named sixgill shark does have six gills, and can grow up to an enormous 20 feet.