Science Finally Understands Why Sharks Swim in Circles

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Prey or play?

We have all seen pictures of sharks ‘circling’. For years scientists have been wondering why these magnificent creatures of the deep perform this ritualistic form of dance.

Well, it seems science has finally figured out why some sharks act in this strange manner.

It is because they are speed dating.

This phenomenon is especially observed in Basking sharks. 

Basking sharks, the second largest species of fish in the world after the whale shark, have been occasionally spotted performing these strange mass circle dances, but in a paper published in the Journal of Fish Biology, scientists from the Marine Biological Association (MBA) and the Irish Basking Shark Group have worked out why they do it.
According to National Geographic, Basking sharks can measure up to 33 feet long and weigh up to 4.5 tons, according to National Geographic. They are famous for their huge, gaping mouths, which despite their terrifying appearance, are used only to passively filter-feed plankton from the water as they swim.

How would you feel if you saw one of these magnificent creatures face to face?

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Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

These creatures are usually solitary animals. Now science presumes that these giants come together to mate, although mating has never actually been observed. Scientists believe they have never actually observed the mating ritual because the sharks go deep underwater to perform the sex act.

Scientists have also noted that while the dance party is made up of equal numbers of males and females, the sexes only interact with each other for brief moments in time, while the mating dance ritual goes on for hours at a time.

They have previously been sighted swimming in circles, and while that was suspected to be mating-related behavior, the precise reasons for the activity had not been confirmed until now.
Basking sharks, the second largest species of fish in the world after the whale shark, have been occasionally spotted performing these strange mass circle dances. 
Basking sharks can measure up to 33 feet long and weigh up to 4.5 tons, according to National Geographic. They are famous for their huge, gaping mouths, which despite their terrifying appearance, these massive creatures are used only to passively filter-feed plankton from the water as they swim.

Basking sharks remain on the “endangered” list. Over the past 200 years, they were widely fished for their liver oil, which was used in lamps, cosmetics, perfumes, and lubricants. According to the paper, over 100,000 basking sharks were caught and killed between 1946 and 1997 alone.

We have certainly overfished these creatures.

Males take 12–16 years to reach sexual maturity while females take a whopping 20 years. With those odds stacked against them, we cannot afford to have them taken off the endangered list otherwise the delicate balance of the ocean is forever altered.

One idea seems to hold true for most species, the males reach sexual maturity first and then go about trying to lure unsuspecting females into joining them for a sexual dance.

What do you think?

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