Taking its name from its primary food source – salmon – the salmon shark closely resembles the better-known great white. However, salmon sharks bear an even more remarkable likeness to the porbeagle shark, with only experts able to tell the two apart without a close examination.
The salmon shark is classified as “Least Concern” or “LC” by the IUCN.
Salmon Shark Scientific Classification
|Scientific Name||L. ditropis|
These sharks are large, ranging from approximately 6.6–8.6 ft in length and around 485 lb in weight. However, the longest officially recorded specimen is roughly 10 ft long, while the heaviest salmon shark is about 992 lb. Both the adults and juveniles are black to gray dorsally and white ventrally. However, the adults have dark blotches on the underside, which the younger sharks lack.
Like similar sharks, the salmon sharks have rows of blade-like teeth, with each tooth surrounded by smaller “mini teeth”. Their gill slits are noticeably large.
The salmon sharks have pointed almost conical snouts, and their eyes are positioned on the top of the head, giving them binocular-like vision. They share these traits with the great white shark, making the two appear similar, though the salmon sharks are noticeably smaller.
Salmon sharks are one of the fastest sharks in the world, second only to the Mako, reaching speeds of 50 mph.
Where do they live
These sharks live in the North Pacific Ocean, ranging from sub-Arctic to sub-tropical waters. While commonly observed in offshore waters, they have also been spotted in inshore and coastal waters.
Interestingly, there has been a difference in the male: female ratio depending on the location of these sharks. For instance, the shark population in the western Pacific close to Asia, including the Sea of Japan, is predominantly male. On the other hand, those in the eastern Pacific, like the Prince William Sound and Alaska, have more females than males. This is because Japanese anglers are harvesting male sharks for their fins.
As their name indicates, these sharks love salmon, with the decline in the population of certain salmon species like the king salmon being attributed to them. However, salmon sharks are opportunistic and, as apex predators, wouldn’t hesitate to supplement their diet with prey like capelin, herring, pollock, rockfish, sablefish, and squid.
Salmon sharks are ambush predators, lying in wait to make a meal of an unaware fish. They will lurk below and use their speed to swim upwards and grabbing their target.
They are ovoviviparous, with the eggs hatching inside the mother’s body before she gives live birth to them. A female salmon shark can bear up to 2-6 pups annually.
It takes juvenile males five years to reach sexual maturity, while females take a bit longer at about eight to ten years. The average lifespan of the salmon shark is 27 years for males and 20 for females.
A trait observed in the salmon shark is the ability to control the temperature of their body – called homeothermy. This capability is rare among most fish, let alone sharks. As a result of regulating their body temperature, the salmon shark can live in the freezing waters of the North Pacific.
Besides this, they share several other adaptations common to most sharks, including a streamlined body for effective swimming, keen senses like excellent visual and olfactory prowess, and sharp teeth for ripping their prey into consumable pieces.
Interactions with humans
While salmon sharks are possibly dangerous due to their large size, there have been no confirmed reports of these sharks attacking humans.
Salmon sharks are sometimes used in fishing – both commercial and for sports. In Alaska, fishers can catch two sharks per year for sport. While in Japan, the shark’s fin and hearts are considered delicacies.