The porbeagle (Lamna nasus) is a pelagic predatory species of mackerel shark of the family Lamnidae. The porbeagle is considered vulnerable to extinction (critically endangered in the Northeast Atlantic), and the European Union has proposed listing the porbeagle under the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
A porbeagle recently caught and released in British waters was estimated to have been 550 lbs and was the largest shark in UK waters ever caught.
The origins of the name porbeagle are unknown. One suggestion is a combination of “porpoise” and “beagle”, for it is fairly porpoise-like. The Oxford English Dictionary attributes its first appearance to a Cornish dialect. It is possible it is derived from two old French words meaning hog and nose. The Greek lamna means shark and nasus means nose.
The porbeagle’s distribution ranges from the northeastern coast of North America, from New Jersey to Greenland and from the northwestern coast of Africa, Morocco or Western Sahara and the Mediterranean, and up to the waters off Iceland to the north coast of Norway and the northwestern coast of Russia. In the southern hemisphere its distribution is circumglobal from 30° to 60° south.
The porbeagle is listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN (World Conservation Union) Red List of Threatened Species. Canada also lists the porbeagle as an endangered species overfishing has recently decimated numbers in British waters.
The porbeagle is mainly a pelagic shark, but can be found in coastal waters. It lives in cold water commonly from about 5°C to 10°C (41°F to 50°F), but have been found down to 1°C (33°F) and up to 23°C (71°F). It can be found at the surface and to a depth of more than 700 metres.
The most distinguishing characteristic of the porbeagle is a white patch on the trailing edge of the dorsal fin. This distinguishes it from all other sharks in its family. It has two keels on the caudal fin, in common with the salmon shark.
Porbeagle Shark Facts
Porbeagles are coldwater sharks that have a similar body shape and tail to mako and great white sharks. Their diet is primarily herring, mackerel and other bony fish.
The porbeagle is a stout and heavy shark, dark blue-grey on top and white underneath, with a conical snout. The porbeagle’s maximum recorded size is 3.7 m (12 ft), and large specimens can weigh 160 to 250 kg (350 to 550 lb). Females in the northern hemisphere mature at around 7.6 to 8.5 feet (232-259 cm) in total length, and females in the southern hemisphere at around 6.1 to 6.6 feet (185-202 cm). Males in the northern hemisphere mature at around 5.4 to 6.8 feet (165-207 cm). The average weight of this species is 135 kg (297 lb).
The porbeagle is among the fastest sharks. It can jump fully out of the water, a behavior observed in only a few sharks. Porbeagles are unique in that they have been known to play tag with other porbeagles, pass around seaweed to other porbeagles, and toss driftwood out of the water in a manner similar to dolphins.
The porbeagle is an opportunistic feeder, it eats mostly bony fish like mackerel, herring, lancetfish and sauries.
The porbeagle is ovoviviparous. Gestation period is about 8 to 9 months. Litters of up to 6 pups have been recorded but the normal size is about 4. Pups are about 60 to 80 cm long when born. Female porbeagles reach sexual maturity at about 12 to 13 years and males at 7 to 8 years.
Are there any recorded porbeagle shark attacks?
No documented porbeagle shark attacks have ever been reported although the diver below had a close encounter with a curious porbeagle:
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