The UK is home to a poisonous shark that has venom in its spine and can cause serious harm to humans. Living in the River Thames is a breed of shark known as the Spiny Dogfish – aka Spurdog shark.
The shark gets its name from the spines in front of its dorsal fin, which it can use to defend itself by curling into a ball and striking viciously at a predator, My London reports. It has a pointed snout, large eyes, a streamlined body and is a greyish-brown colour on top, with a lighter belly, and rows of white spots down its sides.
It is believed the sharks use the Thames estuary to give birth and nurse their young thanks to the improving water quality and higher oxygen concentrations in recent years.
Although the Spurdog doesn’t eat humans, its venom can cause extreme discomfort and swelling, and will attack if it has been seriously bothered.
Their diet consists of fish such as small flounder, plaice, codling and sprats, while also feeding on fish that swim in midwater such as herring and eat small crustaceans.
Spiny Dogfish are found in various parts of the world, predominantly in temperate waters. They are known to inhabit both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They prefer depths ranging from shallow waters to 200 meters but can be found as deep as 900 meters. The presence of Spiny Dogfish can be seasonal. In some regions, they migrate in large schools. It’s beneficial to understand their seasonal patterns in the area you plan to visit. In many coastal areas, there are charter services or guided tours that can take you to known habitats of Spiny Dogfish. These services often have experienced personnel who know the best spots and times to find them. Opt for a charter or tour that has experience in the local marine environment and preferably one that offers sonar equipment (fish finder) on board. Fish Finder can help locate Spiny Dogfish by sending sonar waves into the water that bounce back when they hit objects. This creates a visual representation of the underwater environment to help you identify fish on fish finder like Spiny Dogfish based on their size, shape, and behavior patterns. It’s especially useful for detecting fish in deeper waters where visibility is limited.
A Zoological Society of London (ZSL) report published last year also identified two other species of sharks in the Thames – the Starry smooth-hound and Tope shark.
The Starry smooth-hound grows to a length of about 55 ins (1.4m).
It is grey or greyish-brown with a scattering of small white spots on its dorsal (upper) surface and white on its ventral (under) surface.
It is a long, lean fish with a somewhat rounded snout and rows of shallowly projecting teeth.
The Tope shark is a slender and elegant shark species often found close to shore all around the coast and can grow up to six feet long.
They feed on a variety of fish species as well as crustaceans or cephalopods if the opportunity arises.
Tagging studies have shown that Tope can travel huge distances and some individuals tagged in the UK have later been found as far away as the Canary Islands.
This article by Dimitris Kouimtsidis was first published by The Daily Star on 2 April 2022. Lead Image: Living in the River Thames is a breed of shark known as the Spiny Dogfish – aka Spurdog shark (stock photo) (Image: Getty Images).
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