A nursery ground for sand tiger sharks was recently found in the shore waters of Long Island's Great South Bay. This unusual find was made by researchers at the Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) New York Aquarium, who have been tracking sharks in the area for the last four years using acoustic tags.
"The discovery of a shark nursery is fantastic news for local conservationists seeking to learn more about sharks and other species in the New York Bight," Jon Dohlin, Vice President and Director of WCS's New York Aquarium, said in a news release. "Through field projects and outreach efforts by the New York Aquarium and other organizations, we hope to raise awareness about our local marine environment and the need to manage our natural wonders."
Despite a fearsome-looking appearance - a flat spear-shaped head and toothy grin - sand tiger sharks (Carcharias taurus) are not considered aggressive animals. The juvenile sharks that regularly migrate to the Long Island estuary range from just months old to four or five years old and measure nine inches to four feet long. However, adults can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh as much as 350 pounds, according to the aquarium.
Tracking data revealed 10 of the 15 juvenile sharks tagged in 2015, and five tagged in previous years, returned to the same section of the bay - a behavior known as "site fidelity" in migratory animals. Researchers believe the sharks travel up the coast from where they're born and spend summers in the Great South Bay nursery. Despite a great deal of boating, fishing, dreading and other human activities in the area, the nursery appears to act as a safe haven from deep-water predators and provides good sources of food.
With a better understanding of the sand tiger sharks' migration, researchers can implement more effective protections and conservation programs. Monitoring this nursery will be important as the sharks are listed as a vulnerable species and only a handful of sand tiger shark nursery grounds have been identified to date.
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