Bronze Whaler Shark
The name Bronze whaler shark is sometimes used for several species of tropical whaler sharks. A lot of shark species can display a bronze colouration when subjected to bright sunlight. In Australia and many other English speaking countries the Carcharhinus brachyurus, is considered the true Bronze whaler shark. This species is also referred to as Copper shark, particularly in South Africa and Namibia.
The Bronze Whaler shark is a large species and can reach a maximum size of at least 325 cm and weigh up to 250 kg. The Bronze Whaler shark has a blunt and broad snout of moderate length which is sharply rounded or pointed. There are narrow, bent cusps on the shark's upper teeth. The Bronze Whaler shark has no interdorsal ridge. The upper part of the body show bronze and olive grey colours, while the belly is white. The fins are plain, but the tips of the pelvic fins are dusky and the tips and rear edges of the pectoral fins are dusky or black. Just like the other shark species, the Bronze Whaler shark has a skeleton made of cartilage instead of bone. Cartilage is a flexible substance, and it is found in the human body as well, e.g. at the end of the nose and at the outer part of the ears. The cartilage is very flexible when formed but the body uses lime to stiffen it and it is strong enough to support a huge shark body in the water. The shark family is very old and has existed for over 350 million years. Together with skates and rays, the shark species are the only non-extinct fishes with cartilage instead of bones.
The Bronze Whaler shark inhabits most parts of the world and is found in the waters around all continents except for the cold waters around Antarctica. In the Western Atlantic it inhabits the Gulf of Mexico and the waters from Brazil and down to Argentina. Bronze Whaler sharks also live off the coast of France and southward around the coast of the African continent. It is commonly found in the Mediterranean. In the Western Pacific the Bronze Whaler shark is found from Japan to New Zealand, and in the Eastern Pacific it inhabits the region from southern California in the U.S. and all the way down to Peru, including the Gulf of California.
The Bronze Whaler sharks that inhabit the northern regions of the planet travel vast distances each year and migrates south for the winter and returns back to the north for the summer.
The Bronze Whaler shark likes tropical and temperate waters, and is found from 45° N to 52° S. It is associated with reefs and is known to dive down to at least 100 metres. In shallower areas it can be found close to the bottom. It is a coastal offshore species which often frequents the areas along the continental margins. The Bronze Whaler sharks will also sometimes venture into large coastal bays and other inshore regions. It is commonly found in marine waters, but has also been sighted in brackish regions.
It eats primarily pelagic and bottom bony fish; particularly swordfish and sawfish. It is also known to consume other sharks, mullets, rays and cephalopods. The annual sardine run off the coast of South Africa always attracts an abundance of Bronze Whaler sharks.
The Bronze Whaler shark is popular among fishermen and is often caught during longline fishing. It is however one of the slowest growing shark species, which makes it especially susceptible to over-fishing. The minimum population doubling time for Bronze Whaler sharks exceeds 14 years. The Bronze Whaler shark has been implicated in shark attacks on people and should always be approached with caution. The best way of avoiding attacks is to stay away from the shark and never even try to approach it even if it looks relaxed.
During the recent years the Bronze Whaler sharks have been the focus of a scientific project utilizing satellite technology to monitor migratory patterns. This has produced astonishing results and today the scientist suspect that there exist at least two different populations of Bronze Whaler sharks off the coast of southern Africa. The first one lives east of the Western Cape, while the other population is found in Walvis Bay in Namibia and off Angola to the north. The Bronze Whaler sharks found outside Namibia and Angola belongs to the same population and travels between the countries. Two sharks tagged in southern Angola in 2003 were located in Swakopmund in Namibia three months later, which is 715 km south of southern Angola.
The Bronze Whaler shark is an internal live bearer and the female Bronze Whaler shark will give birth to live pups. This species form pairs and the eggs are fertilized inside the female while the male embraces her. The reproductive method of the Bronze Whaler shark is viviparous and the offspring receives nutrition from a yolk-sac placenta while they are developing inside the body of their mother. One litter will contain between 7 and 20 pups and newborn Bronze Whaler shark pups are typically 59-70 cm long. Bronze Whaler sharks give birth year round, but there is a peak during the summer.
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