The Fins United Initiative is excited to bring back the loved "Underrated Elasmobranch Spotlight" series through TFUI officer Jess Myers. Learn about the Chondrichthyans not shown on the big screen through her beautiful artwork!
Many of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week specials feature great white sharks, making them far from underrated. With that in mind, the first species of Fins United Initiative’s 4th Underrated Elasmobranch line up is often mistaken as a great white – the porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus).
It is understandable why some people get the species mixed up. They have enough similar characteristics that scientists put them in the same family, Lamnidae, meaning Mackerel or white sharks. Members of this family are known for their ability to keep their body temperature higher than the water surrounding them. Both species exhibit countershading, gray coloring on top with white underbellies, and share the typical torpedo-shaped body. You can tell them apart by looking at differences in fin placement, tooth shape, and many other small details. However, the biggest and easiest difference to spot may be the size difference. Great white sharks can grow to be over 20 feet long, while the max recorded length of a porbeagle shark was 11 feet.
The porbeagle’s scientific name Lamna nasus highlights their snout (“nasus” means nose). They use their nose (and ampullae of Lorenzini) to hunt for fish in schools or on the bottom of the ocean. They also eat squid and sometimes other sharks. Porbeagle sharks can tolerate waters as cold as -1˚C (30˚F) – pretty cold waters for a shark! They are a migratory species that have been recorded diving as deep as 1,360 meters (~4,450 feet).
Porbeagle shark meat is said to taste like swordfish meat making it a target for fisheries. They are also caught and used for fish oil, fishmeal, and shark-fin soup. As of 2018, this species was listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
Reference image and information retrieved from FishBase.
WHAT UNDERRATED CHONDRICHTHYAN DO YOU THINK SHARK WEEK SHOULD SHOWCASE?
TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
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