The Most Common Shark Species in South Africa
Did you know the word shark may have originated from a Dutch word meaning villain? They were given this name because they are fish that exhibit predatory behaviour. We have learnt over time that not all sharks are predatory, towards humans anyway. They are often identified by the five to seven gills at the sides and a rigid pectoral fin.
While there are many shark species found in South Africa, we’ll explore a list of a few of the most common found in Gansbaai and in Cape Town ocean waters.
Top 4 Shark Species to Expect to See in South Africa
The life span of the great white shark is about 70 years; however, many do not live that long. The ancestry of great white sharks seems to date back 400 million years – as long as the dinosaur! Great white sharks have severally rows of ragged teeth and have about 300 in their mouths at a time. They will lose an average of 30 000 during their lifetime. When one falls out, another will simply take its place. These incredibly private creatures have never been captured on film mating or giving birth. Pups are also kept in nurseries, but we do not really know where they are. The great white sharks have jelly-like sacks in its snout that can pick up the vibrations of its prey.
The peak season for great white sharks is June to August and Mossel Bay’s great white sharks show-off with their notorious hunting behaviour – the breach.
Bronze Whale Shark
The bronze whale shark is also known as the copper shark gets its name from its fantastic colour. They live about 30 years and have about 70 narrow, smooth, triangular teeth in their mouths. These guys are real ‘summer babies’ and prefer temperate waters to cold. The copper shark is known for feeding on whale carcases but will also team up with dolphins to hunt prey. Females can deliver anywhere from 7 to 24 pups per year.
They can be seen all year round in Gansbaai and Cape Town. These sharks are very cool to cage dive with, as they tend to arrive around the boats in great numbers and stay around for long periods.
The cow shark also known as the Sevengill shark is often identified by the absence of its first dorsal fin. Most sharks have five gills, but this shark gets its name from the fact that it has seven gills. Their lifespan is around 50 years, and they can weigh in at about 100kg. The cow shark is known for being non-aggressive may be due to its preference for deeper waters. Though there are several species of cow sharks, some do prefer shallow waters as well. The female cow shark does move into shallow water to deliver up to 80 pups at a time!
The mako shark can grow up to 4 metres. The shortfin Mako shark has a lifespan of about 32 years and has been placed on the endangered species list by the International Union for Conservation Trust. This may be due to the low birthing rates where females deliver 4 to 18 pups every 3 years. Do not make the mistake of underestimating these young sharks, they have a bite measure equating to 1300kg of force.
These beautiful animals are found in the warm, pelagic waters offshore.