Schooling Sand Tiger Sharks
Schooling Sand Tiger Sharks
by Mike Gerken
©Evolution Underwater Imaging LLC 2015; All Rights Reserved
A shiver of Sand Tiger Sharks (Carcharias taurus).
Being calm under pressure is a key ingredient to taking quality photographs underwater. This was easier said than done in late July on the wreck of the Caribsea off the North Carolina Coast. At this time, conditions were optimal for an aggregation of sand tiger sharks with at least 50-75 sharks present (I'm being modest in this estimate). Everywhere you looked there were sand tigers; under your feet, over your shoulder, in front and in back of you. One had to be careful to not let them bump in to you. The action and great photo ops were everywhere! Whatever cool calm demeanor I had was enveloped by the "kid in a candy store" mentality; I just couldn't fit enough treats into my pockets. Fellow photographer, Tanya Houppermans of Blue Elements Imaging, was right there shooting away along side of me on these dives. A few high fives were exchanged and arms pumped with both of us acting like teens at a Beatles concert. By the look on each others faces, it was evident we obtained some quality images. Moments like these in nature are rare and I, for one, felt blessed to see this event. However, his was not the first time myself or others have witnessed this.
A short video clip showing a shiver of sharks on the Caribsea.
Not a lot is known scientifically why sand tigers appear on this wreck in vast numbers at this time of the year but, there is a definite pattern that have been observed by myself and co-workers and friends at Olympus Dive Center over the last five years. It would appear that come mid-July each year, the sand tigers on the Caribsea, which normally are spread out over a wide area along the bottom, come together in mid-water where the visibility is clearer and the water warmer. They tend to gather in larger and denser numbers around 40-70 feet and swim in to the current when the current is running. The photo at the top of this blog is a decent representation of the numbers of sharks present, however, there were many more spread out around the area coming and going in to the mix.
Also, nearly everyone of these sharks was a female in the 7-10 foot range with a few definitely showing signs of pregnancy. Their behavior is somewhat different as well where the sharks are considerably more approachable than usual. Under different conditions and times of the year, getting close to the large females is not so easy. They tend to be a little shy and do not like head on courses. During the schooling, all these rules go out the window. Sharks are coming at you and swimming away from you in all directions. The feeling of being surrounded by these large toothy sharks is enough to get any ones adrenaline running, myself included.
What else can be said is that these sharks mate during the late winter and early spring months which is evident by the fresh mating scars (see inset photo) on the pectorals on the female sharks. The males must bite the females in this area in order to hold on during mating hence creating these wounds. Once the mating is over, it would seem that the males skip town while the females relax and take it easy reveling in the fact that the annoying males are gone. Maybe the schooling is part of the gestation process after mating or maybe it is a defensive technique. Its hard to say really since no advanced studies have been done yet on this specific phenomenon. One thing for sure, it is not a coincidence. These sharks have a purpose schooling over the remains of the Caribsea. The fun part will be trying to figure out what it is.
Shiver - A group of sharks.
Photographer, Tanya Houppermans and friends.
Sand Tigers Everywhere!
A silhouette of sand tigers.
See More Photos from North Carolina 2015 Here!
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