There are Around 440 Known Species of Sharks!
There are many iconic species of sharks - the Great White in the film Jaws was burned into popular cutlure, for better and for worse - but they are still a very small subsection of the over 400 shark species that have been discovered by humans so far. Unfortunately, being overlooked by popular culture doesn’t give these lesser known species any protection, and many of them are endangered. It is estimated that up to 100 million sharks are killed by people every year, due to commercial and recreational fishing. Meanwhile, the “average number of fatalities worldwide per year between 2001 and 2006 from unprovoked shark attacks is 4.3”. Kind of a skewed ratio, no?
In honor of Shark Week, I want to give you an overview of endangered shark species, some of which most people have never heard about, yet their role as top sea predators is just as important as any of the more photogenic species. Obviously we can’t cover all endangered sharks in one post, there are simply too many, but we’ll try to show how much variety there is among sharks.
Note that some species are so rare now that it’s hard to find photos of them.
Angel Shark (Squatina squatina) - Critically Endangered
“Sources from the 19th and early 20th centuries indicate that the angelshark was once abundant all around the coasts of Western Europe. […] Angelshark numbers have declined precipitously across most of its range; it is now believed to be extinct in the North Sea and most of the northern Mediterranean, and has become extremely rare elsewhere. During the comprehensive Mediterranean International Trawl Survey (MEDITS) program from 1995 to 1999, only two angelsharks were captured from 9,905 trawls.” (source)
Daggernose Shark (Isogomphodon oxyrhynchus) - Critically Endangered
The Daggernose shark lives in “shallow tropical waters off northeastern South America from Trinidad to northern Brazil, favoring muddy habitats such as mangroves, estuaries, and river mouths, though it is intolerant of fresh water. […] The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has assessed this species as Critically Endangered, as it has a limited distribution and is highly susceptible to overfishing due to its low reproductive rate. The daggernose shark has declined over 90% over the past decade off Brazil, and similar declines have likely also occurred elsewhere in its range as fishing pressure in the region continues to grow more intense. The IUCN has urgently recommended the implementation of conservation schemes and the expansion of fishery monitoring for this species.” (source)
Zebra Shark (Stegostoma fasciatum or varium) - Vulnerable
The zebra shark is a species of carpet shark and the sole member of the family Stegostomatidae. It occurs in the tropical Indo-Pacific sea, frequenting coral reefs and sandy flats. “The World Conservation Union has assessed this species as Vulnerable worldwide, as it is taken by commercial fisheries across most of its range (except off Australia) for meat, fins, and liver oil. There is evidence that its numbers are dwindling.” (source)
Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias) - Vulnerable
Here’s an iconic one! It is also known as the great white, white pointer, white shark, or white death. It can be found in coastal waters in all oceans on the globe, and some individuals have been measured at 6 m (20 ft) in length and 2,268 kg (5,000 lb) in weight. “It is unclear how much a concurrent increase in fishing for great white sharks has caused the decline of great white shark populations from the 1970s to the present. No accurate population numbers are available, but the great white shark is now considered vulnerable. Sharks taken during the long interval between birth and sexual maturity never reproduce, preventing population recovery. The IUCN notes that very little is known about the actual status of the great white shark, but as it appears uncommon compared to other widely distributed species, it is considered vulnerable.” (source)
Shortfin Mako Shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) - Vulnerable
The Shortfin Mako is a fairly large species of shark. An average adult specimen will measure around 3.2 m (10 ft) in length and weigh from 60–135 kg (130–300 lb). The shortfin mako inhabits offshore temperate and tropical seas around the world. “In 2010, Greenpeace International added the shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus or mackerel shark) to its seafood red list, ‘a list of fish that are commonly sold in supermarkets around the world, and which have a very high risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries.’ In 2010, the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) also added the shortfin mako shark to Annex I of its Migratory Sharks MoU. This Memorandum of Understanding, currently in effect, serves to increase international understanding and coordination for the protection of certain migratory sharks.” (source)
Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus) - Vulnerable
The basking shark is the second largest living fish, after the whale shark (see below). “It is a cosmopolitan migratory species, found in all the world’s temperate oceans. It is a slow moving and generally harmless filter feeder and has anatomical adaptations to filter feeding, such as a greatly enlarged mouth and highly developed gill rakers. […] It has long been a commercially important fish, as a source of food, shark fin, animal feed, and shark liver oil. Overexploitation has reduced its populations to the point that some have apparently disappeared and others need protection.” (source)
Dumb Gulper Shark (Centrophorus harrissoni) - Critically Endangered
The dumb gulper shark, Centrophorus harrissoni, is a rare and critically endangered deepwater dogfish, known from only along the east coast of Australia and isolated spots north and west of New Zealand. “It is also known as the dumb shark, Harrison’s deep-sea dogfish, or Harrison’s dogfish. The dumb gulper shark may grow to be 43 inches (110 cm) long and has a long, robust head, a long, flattened snout, large mouth and large, green eyes which help it see at 820 to 1260 feet (250 to 385 metres) under water.” (source)
Speartooth Shark (Glyphis glyphis) - Endangered
“The speartooth shark (Glyphis glyphis) is an extremely rare species of requiem shark, family Carcharhinidae. Only immature specimens, which inhabit the tidal reaches of large tropical rivers in northern Australia and New Guinea, are known. It is exclusively found in fast-moving, highly turbid waters over a wide range of salinities. […] The range of conservation threats faced by the speartooth shark, coupled with its small population and restricted range and habitat preferences, have led the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to assess it as Endangered. Furthermore, in Australia it has been listed as Critically Endangered on the 1999 Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, though this is of minimal effect as Commonwealth protection does not apply until a distance of three nautical miles from the coast, likely outside the range of this shark.” (source)
Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) - Vulnerable
“The whale shark is targeted by commercial fisheries in several areas where they seasonally aggregate. The population is unknown and the species is considered vulnerable by the IUCN. It is listed, along with 6 other species of shark, under the CMS Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Conservation of Migratory Sharks. In 1998, the Philippines banned all fishing, selling, importing and exporting of whale sharks for commercial purposes, followed by India in May 2001, and Taiwan in May 2007. They are currently listed as a vulnerable species; however, they continue to be hunted in parts of Asia, such as Taiwan and the Philippines.” (source)
Dusky Shark (Carcharhinus obscurus) - Near Threatened/Vulnerable
The dusky shark is a species of requiem shark that can be found in tropical and warm-temperate continental seas worldwide. One of the largest members of its genus, the dusky shark reaches 4.2 m (14 ft) in length and 347 kg (765 lb) in weight. “The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has assessed this species as Near Threatened worldwide and Vulnerable in the northwestern Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. The American Fisheries Society has also assessed North American dusky shark populations as Vulnerable. Its very low reproductive rate renders the dusky shark extremely susceptible to overfishing. Stocks off the eastern United States are severely overfished; a 2006 stock assessment survey by the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) showed that its population had dropped to 15–20% of 1970s levels.”
Animal advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Natural Resources Board (NRB) this week over a new provision that will allow hunters to use dogs this upcoming hunting season that begins on October 15.
The suit, which was filed at the Dane County Circuit Court by eight organizations, is seeking an injunction to stop the DNR from issuing permits, claiming that hunting wolves with dogs will result in a number of horrible scenarios ranging from animal cruelty to what would otherwise be legalized dog fighting in violation of the state’s anti-cruelty and animal fighting laws.
“A broad range of Wisconsin citizens oppose the rules established for this season,” said Jodi Habush Sinykin, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. “From hunters to landowners, ecologists to volunteer trackers and community humane societies, there is strong agreement that the season was set up without the restrictions needed to prevent deadly animal fighting.”
“The goal of the lawsuit is to have the DNR take a closer look at the restrictions that need to be put into place,” said Liz Pirner, Fox Valley Humane Association resource and events coordinator. “They are a predatory animal, and they are a very complex animal. That needs to be a part of the conversation when we’re talking about bringing a companion animal into the situation.”
The groups also have experts on their side who filed statements against the use of dogs, including a former DNR wolf manager, Patricia McConnell, Ph.D, a nationally-acclaimed expert in canine training and behavior; and UW-Madison Professor Adrian Treves, Ph.D, expert in wolf habitat and behavior.
“Dog packs that will be used to chase a wolf or a pack of wolves will be regarded by the wolves as a threat,” said Dick Thiel, a retired DNR wolf manager who submitted testimony. “Attacks will be swift and furious. Dogs will be seriously injured and die, and wolves will be injured and die as they both fight by slashing out with their canines and carnassial teeth.”
Supporters of the rule don’t expect there to be any problems. The Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, for one, doesn’t believe there’s any basis to support the notion that dogs and wolves would fight, while hunters contend that their dogs are expensive and well trained and they don’t want to put them in harms way. However, there are no breed, training or leash restrictions in the provision.
Bill Cosh, a spokesman for the DNR said they are disappointed with the lawsuit and will be reviewing the documents.
A preliminary hearing for the case has been scheduled for Aug. 29. The plaintiffs include the Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies, Dane County Humane Society, Wisconsin Humane Society, Fox Valley Humane Association, Northwood Alliance, National Wolfwatcher Coalition, Jayne and Michael Belsky and Donna Onstott.
Meanwhile, it looks like hunters are anxious to get out there for a massacre. More than 8,400 people having applied for just 2,000 available permits being offered to kill a quota of 201 wolves.
A new study led by the University of Sydney appeared in the Journal Nature recently, warning that nearly a third of animal species under threat in developing nations are linked to global trade of manufactured goods and commodities such as palm oil. As the researchers put it: “Human activities are causing the globe’s sixth major extinction event.”
As reported in Reuters, this is the first time that the important role of international trade and foreign consumption as a driver of threats to species has been comprehensively quantified.
In what has already been a devastating year for Sumatran tigers, orangutans and elephants, this study doesn’t bode well for these three species already on the IUCN’s list of critically endangered species, largely due to the encroachment of palm oil and pulp & paper plantations into their habitat:
Here we show that a significant number of species are threatened as a result of international trade along complex routes, and that, in particular, consumers in developed countries cause threats to species through their demand of commodities that are ultimately produced in developing countries. We linked 25,000 Animalia species threat records from the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List to more than 15,000 commodities produced in 187 countries and evaluated more than 5 billion supply chains in terms of their biodiversity impacts. Excluding invasive species, we found that 30% of global species threats are due to international trade.
Take, for example, the dire situation with Sumatran elephants. In January of this year, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) — the world’s leading authority on conservation status of species — upgraded the status of Sumatran elephants from endangered to critically endangered. This came in response to the risk assessment after tracking the loss of 69% of the animal’s habitat over the past 25 years. With their forest homes burned, felled or converted to palm oil and pulp & paper plantations, the wild population has fallen to no more than 2,800.
To add insult to injury, earlier this month at least four elephants were poisoned and killed at a palm oil plantation in the Aceh Province of Sumatra, Indonesia. And a week later, more devastating news: half of the Congo’s forest elephants were killed in the last 5 years.
The links between biodiversity loss and the increased trafficking of commodities like palm oil through complex supply chains are more clear than ever. As a North American consumer, I am more aware than ever that my choices at the grocery store have a huge impact on the ground in the countries where commodities such as palm oil, found in half of all manufactured goods, come from. If you want to know why, check out this palm oil infographic.
According to the study, the United States, the European Union and Japan are the main destinations for commodities associated with species threats, while Indonesia and Malaysia are among the biggest exporters. It’s therefore no coincidence that nearly 90% of the world’s palm oil comes from Indonesia and Malaysia, where so many incredible species teeter on the brink of extinction.
To combat biodiversity loss, big commodity traders like Cargill must adopt critical supply chain safeguards immediately.
For all their cuteness, giant pandas are in a tight spot. There are fewer than 1,600 pandas left in the wild, and a new study found that more than half of the bears’ already diminished natural habitat will be unlivable in 70 years thanks to climate change.To protect the adorable black-and-white creatures, zoologists are working furiously to understand and improve panda-breeding in captivity. Toward that end, another recent study investigated male pandas’ reproductive cycle, and found that, contrary to females, males are ready and able to mate during more than six months of the year.This is welcome news, given that female pandas have a sharply limited fertility window of only 24 to 72 hours a year.“The more we know, the more we can understand them and the better we’re able to put guidelines in place for their protection,” said Copper Aitken-Palmer, head veterinarian at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va., and leader of the reproduction study. “We can potentially manage them better in captivity, and we’re actually looking toward reintroduction programs to put captive pandas back into the wild.” [Butter Balls: Photos of Playful Pandas]When the time is rightAitken-Palmer and her colleagues studied eight male pandas over the course of three years at the Chengdu Base of Giant Panda Breeding in China. They analyzed pandas’ sperm density, hormone levels and testes size, as well as reproductive behaviors such as movement, scent-marking and vocalizations, to map out their reproductive viability over time.The research showed that male pandas have a breeding season, but it is much longer than that of females.“The coordinated increases in testes size, androgen production, sperm density, and sexual behaviors occur over a protracted interval, likely to prepare for, and then accommodate a brief, unpredictable female estrus,” the scientists wrote in a paper reporting the results published today (April 4) in the journal Biology of Reproduction’s Papers in Press.Love is hardStill, mating for pandas is notoriously difficult, especially in captivity.For example, zoologists at Scotland’s Edinburgh Zoo gave their female panda, Tian Tian, and their male, Yang Guang, some private time in an indoor enclosure with the cameras turned off on April 3 and 4, when Tian Tian’s fertility window opened. Though the pair met repeatedly, zookeepers are losing hope of seeing a panda cub this year.“Each time the pair met, we saw a huge amount of eagerness and attraction between Tian Tian and Yang Guang,” Iain Valentine, director of research and conservation at the zoo, said in a statement. “There was lots of vocalization and encouragement from our female and physical contact between the two. He mounted her several times, however full mating did not occur. Although both have bred before and have borne cubs with other pandas, they are both still relatively inexperienced.” [Video: Panda Mating Dance – Lessons Needed?]Yet scientists say we shouldn’t blame pandas for their reproductive difficulties.“All of this physiology and these adaptations worked great for the panda in the wild, historically,” Aitken-Palmer told LiveScience. “In captivity, we changed all the rules and made it more challenging for them.”For example, while pandas are solitary in the wild, they are often put in enclosures with other pandas in captivity, which could complicate their natural behavior, she said.Turning up the heatThough pandas are the pride of many zoos around the world, their situation in the wild is growing dire. One of the greatest threats to the furry creatures is habitat loss from climate change and human encroachment, scientists say.While the species used to roam over most of southeastern China, northern Myanmar, and northern Vietnam, now pandas are limited to six mountain ranges between the Sichuan plain and Tibetan plateau.And that habitat is looking to grow much smaller, with pandas set to lose 60 percent of their current range due to climate change by 2080, researchersreported in a paper published in the International Journal of Ecology in March. That’s a loss of more than 6,200 square miles (16,000 square kilometers).As global temperatures become warmer, on average, the panda-suitable habitats will move to higher elevations and latitudes, according to climate models. In addition to pandas’ limited geographic range, the species has other traits that suggest climate change could hit it hard.“Giant pandas have a narrow range, do not disperse over large distances, produce one cub every two to three years, and depend on bamboo for 99 percent of their diet,” the researchers, led by Melissa Songer of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, wrote in their paper. “These traits suggest they will be highly susceptible to climate change.”Holding out hopeWhile much of pandas’ existing habitat may be lost, the bears might be able to move to new regions.“New areas may become suitable outside the current geographic range but much of these areas [are] far from the current giant panda range and only 15 percent fall within the current protected area system,” the scientists wrote. “Long-term survival of giant pandas will require the creation of new protected areas that are likely to support suitable habitat even if the climate changes.”And ultimately, there is reason for hope.“The panda is so well-known, such a flagship species for conservation in general,” Aitken-Palmer said. “I think if we can’t have hope for the panda, who can we have hope for? I want to have hope, but conservation worldwide is in trouble. Only time will tell.”
Care2 Earth Month: Back to Basics
This year, Care2 decided to expand Earth Day into Earth Month, since there is so much to explore when it comes to the environment. Every day in April, we’ll have a post about some of the most important topics for the environment, exploring and explaining the basics. It’s a great tool to help you get started with helping the environment — or help explain it to others. See the whole series here.
How Does The Endangered Species Act Work?
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is intended to protect and promote the recovery of animals and plants that are in danger of becoming extinct. Threats to a species from habitat destruction, pollution, over-harvesting, disease, predation, and other natural or man-made factors must be reviewed and evaluated before an animal or plant can be placed on the federal endangered or threatened species list.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service administer the ESA. However, all federal agencies must ensure that their actions will not jeopardize the existence of listed species or adversely modify designated critical habitat. For example, the EPA must ensure that use of pesticides it registers will not result in harm to listed species or their critical habitat.
When Was The First Endangered Species Act?
The idea for today’s ESA was born in 1966, with the Endangered Species Preservation Act, which authorized the Secretary of the Interior to list endangered domestic fish and wildlife and allowed the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to spend up to $15 million per year to buy habitats for listed species. In March, 1967 the first list of endangered species was issued under the act. It included 14 mammals, 36 birds, 6 reptiles and amphibians and 22 fish.
In 1969 came the Endangered Species Conservation Act, which amended the original law to provide additional protection to species in danger of “worldwide extinction” by prohibiting their importation and subsequent sale in the United States.
Finally, the Endangered Species Act was signed by President Nixon on December 28, 1973.
Approximately 1300 Endangered Or Threatened Species In The U.S. Today
The ESA lists both endangered and threatened species, both by state in the United States, and also across the globe. There are approximately 1300 endangered or threatened species in the United States today. These include both animals and plants. Endangered species are those plants and animals that have become so rare they are in danger of becoming extinct. Threatened species are plants and animals that are likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
These vary from state to state: for example, the Tiger Salamander, that cute little guy pictured above, is endangered in California, but not in other states.
How Does The Endangered Species Act Affect My Life?
Speaking of tiger salamanders, my son is currently employed under the California ESA. Our local power company, PGE, needs to refurbish some equipment in an area that is known to be good habitat for tiger salamanders. A team of wildlife biologists, including my son, is in the process of checking the area to determine if these creatures are present. If they find the salamanders, PGE will probably have to take their the entire project to a different location.
Another example: if you want to go climbing at Williamson Rock in the San Gabriel Mountains near Los Angeles, California, you will be stopped by this sign: “Do Not Enter – Endangered Species Habitat. The area behind this sign is closed to all public entry in order to protect the Mountain Yellow Legged Frog and its habitat.”
The Endangered Species Act is an extremely complicated piece of legislation; click here to find out more!
Millions of birds and other animals die from lead hunting ammunition each year — not from being shot but from eating fragments of ammunition left behind by hunters. It’s a wildlife epidemic that’s entirely preventable. That’s why on Monday, the Center for Biological Diversity pulled together more than 140 other groups to petition the Environmental Protection Agency to finally get the lead out of hunting ammunition in favor of readily available, nontoxic alternatives.
“The unnecessary poisoning of eagles, condors and other wildlife is a national tragedy that the EPA can easily put an end to,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “There are safe, available alternatives to lead ammo for all hunting and shooting sports, so there’s no reason for this poisoning to go on. Getting the lead out for wildlife is in line with traditional American conservation, hunting and fishing values.”
Each year, 3,000 tons of lead are shot into the environment by hunters because the EPA has refused to regulate toxic lead hunting ammunition. That lead poisons bald eagles, severely endangered condors and majestic trumpeter swans, which die painful deaths. Hunting with lead ammo also risks the health of humans (especially children) when they ingest tiny lead fragments in shot game.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There are many commercially available alternatives to lead rifle bullets and shotgun pellets. More than a dozen manufacturers market hundreds of varieties and calibers of nonlead bullets and shot made of steel, copper and alloys of other metals, with satisfactory to superior ballistics. Nonlead bullets are readily available in all 50 states. Hunters in states and areas that already have lead restrictions or have banned lead have made successful transitions to hunting with nontoxic bullets.
“We wisely removed lead from gasoline and paint because of the dangers of lead poisoning, and now it’s time to do the same for hunting ammunition. Future generations will thank us,” Miller said.
There is simply no excuse to use toxic lead for hunting. Please sign the group’s petition today, and share it with your network on Twitter and Facebook.
We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore America’s magnificent Gulf Coast. Now is the time to make sure that the fines from BP and others responsible for the horrific spill in the gulf go back to the birds, wildlife and communities along the coast that need it the most. The Gulf Coast supports migratory birds from all across America, and its natural resources support millions of jobs throughout the nation. Your support for Gulf Coast restoration is critical to rebuilding a healthy ecosystem and economy!
Billions of birds—including dozens of colorful songbird species found in backyards and forests, waterfowl from the Prairie Pothole Region, shorebirds from high in the Arctic, raptors, iconic colonial wading birds of the South, and endangered Whooping Cranes and Piping Plovers—depend on Gulf Coast habitats each year. If we are going to succeed, your elected leaders need to hear that Gulf Coast restoration matters to you and your state.