Northern Ireland news

Basking sharks can jump as high and as fast as a great white shark, researchers find

Hundreds of basking sharks are found off the shores of Ireland

BASKING sharks can jump as fast and as high out of the water as the powerful and predatory great white, scientists have found.

A team led by Queen's University Belfast researched basking sharks, the second largest fish in the world.

Hundreds are found off the shores of Ireland and have a reputation for being slow and languid as they scour the sea for their staple diet of plankton.

However, the new study, published in the Journal Biology Letters used video analysis for both species to estimate vertical swimming speeds at the moment of leaving the water.

Videos of showed they had similar speeds of breaching. The basking shark videos were recorded at Malin Head while the great whites were recorded in South Africa.

One showed a basking shark accelerating from a depth of 28 metres to the surface, breaking through the water at nearly 90 degrees, and peaking at a height of 1.2 metres above the water.

Dr Jonathan Houghton, Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology from the School of Biological Sciences at Queen's said: "This finding does not mean that basking sharks are secretly fierce predators tearing around at high speed; they are still gentle giants munching away happily on zooplankton.

"It simply shows there is far more to these sharks than the huge swimming sieves we are so familiar with. It’s a bit like discovering cows are as fast as wolves when you're not looking."

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