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Breaching Basker reveals exceptional abilities

Wednesday, 12 September 2018 20:39

New research undertaken by a team of Donegal based researchers led by Queen's University Belfasthas uncovered some startling new insights into the explosive power of the biggest fish in the Atlantic Ocean, the Basking shark.  Emmett Johnston a part time PhD researcher at Queens University led the research study in collaboration with the University of Roehampton, Technion Institute Israel, University of Cape Town and the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity.

The research study that was undertaken off the coast of Malin head, Donegal, Ireland pioneers the use of custom-built technologies ( to revisit long standing and elusive scientific questions. The journal Biology Letters features the research that shows how the common ancestry and morphology of the docile basking shark and the predatory great white shark is reflected in the extreme limit of their performance capacity during exceptional breaching events (vertical velocity of ~5 m/s).

Basking sharks are the second largest fish in the world reaching lengths up to 10m (33ft). They previously had a reputation for being slow and languid as they scour the sea for their staple diet of plankton. The research used video analysis for both species to estimate vertical swimming speeds at the moment of leaving the water. Furthermore, they instrumented one large basking shark with a data recording device to measure speed, movement and which also stored video.At one point during deployment of the recording device, in just over nine seconds and 10 tail beats, the basking shark accelerated from a depth of 28 m to the surface, breaking through the water at nearly 90 degrees. The shark cleared the water for one second and peaked at a height of 1.2 m above the surface.

The study goes on to conclude that the striking similarities in the athletic performance of the two iconic shark species overturns conventional thinking to expose nearly indistinguishable physiological characteristics that were hidden by an overriding focus on their contrasting lifestyles.  More broadly, the research demonstrates how pioneering new technological capabilities can complement, rather than supersede, elementary scientific principles, when tackling previously elusive questions.

Further details of the research can be found at this link:

Videos of the shark breaching can be seen via the groups you tube channel here: