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Covering over 70% of the earth’s surface the ocean contains a series of dynamic and incredibly varied ecosystems. These delicate marine ecosystems function via an unimaginably complex network of interactions between the organisms and communities which call it home.
With over 500 species worldwide, sharks have adapted to inhabit a wide range of niches in every ocean and sea around the world - from the Portugese Dogfish that lives in total darkness at depths up to 3,700m, to the Greenland Shark that tolerates the icy waters of the Arctic, the Blue Shark which can migrate over 5,700 miles and the Bull Shark which can be found in freshwater up to 1,860 miles from the sea!
Species occupying the highest trophic level in a food web are known as apex predators and include many species of shark. They play a particularly important role in maintaining the diversity, function and health of an ecosystem and impact directly through predation on meso-predators (middle level consumers) and indirectly through their interactions with other members of the ecosystem. Their removal can have complex and unpredictable ecological consequences, something researchers are only just beginning to understand.
In very general terms sharks tend to fall into two main groups; open water (pelagic) species, such as Basking Sharks, Shortfin Mako and Blue Sharks, and bottom-dwelling (demersal) species, such as angelsharks and wobbegongs. All species play a vital role and so their conservation is crucial to the future of our seas.
To discover more about how sharks interact with other marine organisms and their environment click on the links below:
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