In deep waters of the eastern Mediterranean Sea, just off the coast from Israel, scientists have discovered a shark nursery.
“We couldn’t believe what we were seeing!” Yizhaq Makovsky, of the University of Haifa’s Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences, told an Israeli television station. “The habitat, which spans dozens, if not hundreds of meters, has an abundance of marine life not found in the waters in or around Israel.”
About 2,500 miles long, the Mediterranean separates Europe from Africa and connects countries like Israel in the east to the Atlantic Ocean to the west. It varies in width from 500 miles to only eight miles at the Strait of Gibraltar. The deepest point recorded in the sea is 16,000 feet.
The shark nursery discovered near Israel could be the largest place known for deep-sea shark to raise their young.
“This is a shocking revelation to those who are familiar with the Eastern Mediterranean, which was thought of as an ocean desert,” Makovsky said.
There are several types of shark capable of making a living in deep waters. Off the coast of Israel these include the rare little sleep shark, the gulper shark and the kitefin shark, to name a few. All are adapted to living in deep, dark waters.
Most deep-water sharks are small to medium-sized and have big eyes to see in the dark waters. Some of them are extremely slow to mature, not reaching their reproductive age until they are 9 to 15 years old. When females give birth, their litters can vary from two to 20 young.
There are only 18 known species of deep-water sharks out of the 500 known species of sharks. Shark populations have declined rapidly as they are caught for food, such as shark fin soup.
— Brett French, firstname.lastname@example.org