(ORDO NEWS) — Over the past forty years, scientists have repeatedly noticed mysterious shark “round dances” in the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean, in which up to two dozen giant sharks swam one after another.
Researchers have now identified the cause of this strange behavior: it turned out not to be a new way of feeding or a massive fish madness, but a mating ritual in which the sharks evaluated many potential mates at the same time.
Giant sharks are slow-moving giant fish, reaching a length of 12 meters and swimming in cool and warm waters of the temperate climate zone.
Despite their solid size (of all the fish, the giant shark is second only to the whale shark in size ), these creatures are absolutely harmless and feed on microscopic animals called zooplankton .
For much of the 20th century, basking sharks were hunted for their blubber, liver, and fins, causing the species to decline dramatically.
Currently, the prey of giant sharks is very limited, but due to the long maturation, slow breeding rates and low survival rate of young animals, the population is practically not restored.
Now scientists have identified the most important event in the life of these leisurely giants – the marriage ritual.
It turned out that the strange “round dances” of giant sharks, which have been repeatedly observed in the waters of the North Atlantic, consist of approximately an equal number of adult males and females that swim in a circle with their mouths closed – in other words, their behavior is not related to feeding.
The researchers also noted that females in such “round dances” skin color was lighter than that of males. In other shark species, this color change (perhaps caused by hormones or the intensity of the skin’s blood supply) has been repeatedly observed during courtship rituals and mating.
While circling, giant sharks made contact with different partners, touching them with their fins and tails, and from time to time turned upside down, possibly signaling their readiness to copulate.
Perhaps this behavior in sharks can be called “speed dating”: several fish from all around come together, which gives them the opportunity to assess many potential partners in a short time.
Now scientists and conservationists will have to take additional measures to protect the venues of the “dance” of giant sharks, for example, by limiting the passage of maritime transport through these waters until the end of the mating season.
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