Carcharhinus altimus sounds like a really cool shark until you get to that terrible common name, "the bignose shark." At TFUI, we prefer the other common name, Knopp’s shark. But apparently that isn’t as well-known, so we’ll stick to the other common name. Sigh.
The bignose shark is slender, large (reaching lengths of up to 3 m/10 ft) shark with a grey colour on its dorsal side and a white underbelly. They have a long, pointed nose, with prominent nasal flaps underneath that snout.
When describing the bignose shark, it sounds like another kind of shark: night shark (Carcharhinus signatus). They’re very similar! Both have broad pectoral fins, but it’s in the dorsal fins where they differ: C. altimus doesn’t have a dorsal fin free rear tip. Don't have time to look at dorsal fins? A better giveaway is that C. signatus (night sharks) have green eyes and C. altimus do not.
Since the bignose sharks are mainly an offshore species, they tend to munch on mackerels, soles and batfish. Not to mention they also eat other elasmobranchs and cephalopods. When seen, they’re near continental shelves and insular slopes, ranging anywhere from the surface to 430 m (1,410 ft) deep. Juveniles tend to stick to the surface and shallower waters, while the adults dive deep below the waves.
These sharks are viviparous, and pupping is different depending where the shark is located. For example: if the shark is in the Mediterranean, they give birth in August/September; if it’s in Madagascar, they give birth in September/October. Litters can be as big as 11 pups!
These sharks may be preyed upon by bigger sharks… like the star of Jaws, the great white shark. They are also caught as bycatch by offshore trawlers. In the USA, it’s prohibited to capture them in commercial fisheries and in the Caribbean they can be harvested for fish meal or their oil.
The bignose shark is currently listed as Data Deficient (DD) by the IUCN.
ever heard of this shark?
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TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
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