Out for a summer dip (well, for us in the Southern Hemisphere) lately? If you’re in the North Island of New Zealand, you may have another bronzed beauty taking advantage of the (warmer) waters. Hello, bronze whaler shark (Carcharhinus brachyurus).
Also known as the “copper shark,” or “narrowtooth shark,” they are the only member of the Carcharhinidae genus found at tropical and temperate latitudes. These sleek beauts were first described in New Zealand waters, and were even known as “New Zealand whalers” for a little bit. As its name suggests, it is bronze/grey-brown in color with a creamy underbelly. They can grow up to be about 11 ft (about 3.3 m), although you rarely see any that big. Like fine wine, they take their time to grow (about 30 years) and mature.
Besides being observed in New Zealand/Australian waters, bronze whalers have a number of separate populations in the NE and SW Atlantic Ocean and South Africa. Keep an eye out for them while diving in these areas! Off South Africa, you will most probably see this shark within the annual sardine run, a great migration of millions of southern African pilchard (Sardinops sagax).
A cool #womeninSTEM shout out to Melissa Kellett of the University of Waikato, who will be the first scientist to look at the movements of these sharks here in New Zealand, with most data being collected from Tauranga Harbour! Definitely will be keeping an eye out for that bit of #sharkscience.
Here in New Zealand, they’re found during the spring/summer months, coming to shallow, coastal waters where they feed on prey such as kahawai, mullet, snapper, kingfish and eagle rays. Large schools are seen near harbor mouths during this time too, often to pup (16-20 pups). Otherwise, they tend to prefer waters around 100 ft (300 m) deep.
Bronze whalers are viviparous, giving birth every other year in coastal nursery areas, after a gestation period of 12 months (or possibly up to 21 months- ouch!).
The ICUN’s Red List has assessed this species as Near Threatened (NC), as it’s valued by commercial and recreational fisheries, utilized as food and population numbers may have declined in some population areas.
Ever seen one of these sharks?
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TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
SEE MELISSA'S TEDx TALK HERE:
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