4 Amazing Shark Stories to Enjoy This Shark Week
It's shark week, that seven day period every summer when our television screens swim with stories of one of the ocean's most fascinating residents. But sharks make headlines all year round. Here are some of the coolest shark stories EcoWatch has come across this summer.
1. Be Careful What You Fish For
Fishers off Cape Cod, Massachusetts had some fierce competition Saturday, July 20 when a great white shark jumped out of the water and bit a bass they had caught off their line, The Cape Cod Times reported.
"It just left everyone in awe," Columbia Sportfishing vessel Captain Marc Costa said.
"Good reminder that they don't just eat seals and always be cautious when retrieving your catch," the @MA_Sharks Twitter account wrote of the incident.
The video of the encounter was tweeted by the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy.
2. California Dreaming
Great white sharks have increased their numbers in Cape Cod in recent years. But they have also made a surprising home on the other side of the country.
Some juvenile specimen of the ocean's largest predatory fish have been spending more time in California's Monterey Bay, The Guardian reported Friday. Usually, the young sharks are found in the waters off Southern California, near Mexico, but they have begun to move further north in recent years, leading to more sightings in Monterey Bay starting in 2014.
Scientists think the climate crisis might be behind the move, prompting the sharks to move north as water temperatures warm.
"White sharks are endotherms — they have a warmer internal temperature, which makes them more like mammals than fish," Monterey Bay Aquarium senior research scientist Sal Jorgensen told The Guardian. "Especially when they're first born, they have to stay in a Goldilocks temperature range that's not too hot and not too cold."
The sharks have drawn the attention of local residents, who have dubbed their favorite stretch of coast "Shark Park," Specialized Helicopters pilot Chris Gularte told KPIX 5 when he flew reporters over the Bay on Tuesday July 16. You can watch a video of the trip here:
3. Baby Shark
Not all sharks are large predators. Scientists discovered a new species of shark in the Gulf of Mexico that is only five-and-a-half inches long.
The American Pocket Shark (Mollisquama mississippiensis) was first captured in the Gulf in 2010 and identified as a new species in a recent Zootaxa article, Tulane University reported. The only other pocket shark was found in the Eastern Pacific in 1979, and scientists confirmed the two were different species.
"In the history of fisheries science, only two pocket sharks have ever been captured or reported," study author Mark Grace of the National Marine Fisheries Service Mississippi Laboratories of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in the press release. "Both are separate species, each from separate oceans. Both are exceedingly rare."
The pocket sharks have small pockets that secrete a glowing liquid, allowing them to glow in the dark and attract prey, People Magazine reported.
“The fact that only one pocket shark has ever been reported from the Gulf of Mexico, and that it is a new species, underscores how little we know about the Gulf." - Henry Bart, director of the #Tulane Biodiversity Research Institutehttps://t.co/OsODER047l— Tulane University (@Tulane) July 19, 2019
4. Deep Blue Sea
Researchers had an incredible encounter with another rare shark in the Gulf of Mexico this summer.
Shark expert Gavin Naylor of the Florida Museum of Natural History was on a submarine dive to tag the bluntnose sixgill, a shark species older than most dinosaurs, when one of the ancient animals swam up to his vessel.
"I'm literally nose to nose with this animal," Naylor told Live Science.
That particular fish was too close to tag, but the researchers managed to tag another one, marking the first time scientists have tagged an animal from a submarine. The bluntnose sixgill is the world's oldest shark species and swims 2,500 to 3,500 feet below the ocean. Previous attempts to tag them by bringing them to the surface had caused the sharks to act strangely. This deep sea tag should help researchers better understand their behavior.
More footage of six-gill at 528 meters from inside the sub last saturday. This sequence was taken by Lee Frey, our multi-talented sub pilot/engineer/inventor who designed the solenoid triggered spear guns for sub-based tagging. Thanks again to the entire OceanX team. Amazing.. pic.twitter.com/hnW4hQLhm7— Gavin Naylor (@gavinnaylor) July 2, 2019
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The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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