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Nat Geo WILD: Know Your Sharks—The Dusky Shark

Although the great white shark seems to hold all the fame as a household name, that didn’t stop the dusky shark from blasting through the headlines just a few months ago. The now-famous “cyclops fetus” brought the species into the limelight after a fisherman caught a pregnant dusky shark near Cerralvo Island (see map) in the Gulf of California. So what else is there to learn about the dusky shark?

Dusky sharks weigh a whopping 400 pounds and can grow over 11 feet in length. With a rounded snout and sandy-colored tips on most fins, this large and slow-growing fish species has been known to trail after spear fishermen in hopes of scavenging up a quick meal. Compared to other sharks, the dusky has a long lifespan—up to 40 years in the wild—though they don’t reach maturity until about 20 years of age.

These sharks are long-distance swimmers known for seasonal, temperature-driven migrations that can top 2,000 nautical miles. Despite this wanderlust, female dusky sharks return to their own birthplace to give birth. Although this earns the dusky hometown pride-points, it does present a downside in that the isolated communities in which they return to are more susceptible to overfishing pressure.

Although commercial and recreational fishing for these sharks in the western Atlantic and Gulf was banned in 2000, they are often accidentally caught on longlines and other fishing gear—with high mortality rates. Elsewhere the dusky shark is still targeted for trade in shark fin soup, with devastating results. The shark fin trade is difficult to quantify, but recent studies have suggested as many as 750,000 dusky sharks could be caught in the trade each year.

The dusky shark is just one of many shark species we may encounter during the live show, and we’ll continue to profile more of the species we expect to see. Check out the Know Your Sharks Photo Gallery for more.