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Plankton can run, but can't hide from basking sharks

hrow some of their predators (eg fish larvae and predatory invertebrates such as arrow worms) off their trail. However, this study shows that basking sharks seem to have rumbled them.

As well as shedding new light on behavioural strategies of plankton-feeding sharks and whales, the results have important implications for methods used to monitor populations of basking sharks and other species. "There is concern that the world's two largest fish species, the whale shark Rhincodon typus and the basking shark, have low population levels as a result of human exploitation. Data on population sizes for these species are lacking, and diving behaviour is one factor contributing to surveying bias," the authors say. Unless adjusted to account for these differences in diving patterns, current surveys could be over- or underestimating basking shark abundance by at least 10-fold.

Up to 10 metres long and weighing up to 7 tons - about the size of double-decker bus - the basking shark is the world's second largest fish and feeds by filtering plankton from sea water through its enormous mouth. It is able to filter up to 2,000 tons of water per hour - the equivalent of an Olympic-sized swimming pool. It is harmless to humans, but has been netted and harpooned for its oil which was burned in lamps and more recently for its fins.


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Source:Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


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