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Forbes: Unprecedented Shark Discovery by BGU Researchers

Forbes: Unprecedented Shark Discovery by BGU Researchers

August 20, 2021 - Summarized from Forbes

Desert & Water Research, Natural Sciences

Forbes — In an expedition off Israel’s coast that is part of a long-term collaboration among Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, University of Haifa’s Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences, the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research, and the Inter-University Institute of Marine Research, researchers set out to discover what secrets the deep ocean of this region held.

One would think scientists would fully study this fragile habitat before possibly causing irreparable damage, but because the deep sea is so far away it’s almost an “out of sight, out of mind” conservation scenario. Unfortunately, not only is it one of our planet’s most sensitive areas when it comes to impact from climate change, it also suffers mounting deep-sea mining and fishing pressures.

The researchers believe that the Eastern Mediterranean Sea can be “regarded as an early-warning system for what we can expect from marine environments across the world.” Which is how the research team found themselves on a boat, on a mission to see whether this region was a desert or an underwater paradise.

“This is a shocking revelation to those who are familiar with the Eastern Mediterranean, which was thought of as an ocean desert,” Charney School’s Dr. Yizhaq Makovsky explained.

Data revealed deep sea brine pools and a food web thriving on methane, including hundreds of deep-water sharks and a nursery that is home to the largest concentration of deep-sea shark eggs ever found, according to the scientists. In fact, the hotspot could be the region’s largest mating location for these deep-sea sharks.

“This was happening under our noses for thousands of years, right next to Tel Aviv, one of the largest cities in Israel,” said Makovsky. “It was hiding in plain sight, which highlights how little we know about the deep sea — not just off the coast of Israel, but around the world. This is a global challenge.”

Unfortunately, the species of shark is not known.

“These represent one of the most significant discoveries of marine habitats in Israel’s history,” the scientists commented.

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