Sharks (Chondrichthyes/Elasmobranchia): The Bahamas

This topic submitted by Kelly Haas ( at 11:07 PM on 6/5/06.

Jen and Michele explore Lighthouse Cave in the Bahamas

Tropical Field Courses -Western Program-Miami University

Kelly Haas
Tropical Marine Ecology
Sharks (Chondrichthyes/Elasmobranchia): The Bahamas

There are an estimated 25,000 species of fish living in the EarthÕs water today.
Sharks have roamed EarthÕs waters since at least 350 million years ago (some estimates which include sharkÕs ancestors say 400 million years).

Most sharks have between three and five rows of teeth Š all finely serrated and triangular for strong, piercing bites Š with the first row being the largest and most important.
While we are afraid of sharks, they are the ones who should really be afraid.

Shark Identification
Habitat helps to identify and classify sharks.
Along with region of the ocean, there are many obvious physical features that can help at once to identify a shark.

Aggressive Behavior in Sharks
There are only 25 recorded species that have attacked humans.
There are three classifications of shark attacks: hit and run, bump and bite, and sneak.
There are measures a person can take to decrease the chance of shark encounter.

Bahamiam Sharks
The three most commonly spotted sharks of the Bahamas are the Tiger, the Bull, and Caribbean Reef Š all three of these are considered to be very dangerous to humans (Tricas, ).
 The Tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier)
 The Bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas)
 Caribbean reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezi)

Other commonly sighted sharks of the Bahamas include:
1. The Nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum)
2. Lemon sharks
3. The Blacktip Reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus)
5. Silky sharks (Carcharhinus falciformis)
6. Great Hammerhead (Sphyrna mokkaran)
7. Bonnethead sharks (Sphyrna tiburo)
8. The Blue shark (Prionace glauca)
9. The Sawshark (Pristiophorus schroederi)
10. The Whale shark (Rhincodon typus)

There are also other sharks which are common to the Bahamas.
Even though we tend to find these creatures of the deep (and shallows) to be utterly terrifying, we must conserve them. They keep countless oceanic populations in check, which in turn balances the whole ecosystem. If we overfish to the point of extinction, the creature the next trophic level down will rise to the top of the food chain. The sharks have been around for nearly 400 million years, do we really want to diminish them to only memories within less than a couple hundred?

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