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Queen’s University researchers show transatlantic travel of endangered species

Researchers at Queen's and Western University have recorded the second ever evidence of transatlantic movement for the endangered marine fish basking sharks

The study recently published in the Journal of Fish Biology details only the second recorded evidence of transatlantic movement for the species. The last recorded evidence for transatlantic movement was gathered in 2008 when a female basking shark tagged with a tracking device moved from the Irish Sea to continental waters off the coast of Newfoundland.

The new evidence comprises of images of a female basking shark captured by an underwater photographer off the coast of Cape Cod an incredible 993 days after it was fitted with a satellite transmitter at Malin Head, the most northern point of Ireland.

The international collaboration between Queen’s and Western University in Canada has produced the first evidence in more than a decade of the endangered basking shark travelling across the Atlantic.

Emmett Johnston, PhD student at the School of Biological Sciences at Queen's and lead author on the study, said: “Over 1500 individual sharks have been equipped with either visual ID or satellite tags in the Atlantic to date leading to just a single record of transoceanic movement, until now. This new evidence offers invaluable information to help us better understand the movements of this endangered species within an international context.”

Dr Jonathon Houghton, Senior Lecturer from IGFS at Queen's and senior author, said: “For this animal to show up across the ocean three years after it was tagged in Ireland highlights that we really need an international mindset when seeking to conserve this species.”

Paul Mensink from Western Univeristy and co-author added: “In the era of big data, it is amazing how much these fortuitous re-sightings of individual animals can tell us about an entire species.”