Sharks & Rays

Getting to Know Our Neighbors –The Blue Shark and Shortfin Mako Shark

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Marine researchers estimate that at least 34 species of sharks have been recorded off the Pacific Coast of North America. Some of them are rarely seen, and some species that were once commonly seen have, in recent years, become scarce due to overfishing. Thankfully, with proper resource management, shark numbers, at least in some species, appear to be increasing. This is good for the marine environment because sharks are important apex predators. It’s also good for us divers who are lucky enough to call California […]

Cleverly Designed: About the Bat Ray, Pacific Electric Ray and Thornback Ray

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My success at photographing rays has hinged on chance. The ray(s) and I have been surprised to see each other and I somehow managed to take one or more photos before it (or they) departed. With the exception of Pacific electric rays, most of those departures were rather hasty. The electric rays, however, seem to be curious about divers and tend to stick around a bit. Sometimes, it is the divers who make a hasty retreat.   The Bat Ray Bat rays are not fond […]

Fear and Fascination: Encountering the Great White Shark

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There is no fish in the sea more feared — or more fascinating — than the great white shark. In 1971, Peter Gimbel’s movie, Blue Water, White Death, focused public attention on this large animal. In 1974, Peter Benchley’s book, Jaws, and the movie of the same name released in 1975 caused general hysteria. People stayed out of the ocean. A photo of a great white that ran on the cover of Skin Diver magazine in July of the following year was said to have […]

Diving With Blue Sharks

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Blue sharks (Prionace glauca) are among the easiest sharks to identify. With their thin, sleek bodies — metallic blue on the tops and sides, snow white underneath — they are nearly unmistakable. In addition, blues have long pointed snouts, large round eyes and scythe-like tails. Their pectoral fins are exceptionally long. Blues are members of the largest shark family, Carcharhinidae, which has 60 species and 12 genera. Carcharhinidae are also known as requiem sharks. Exactly why, no one seems to know. All have the following […]

The Horn Sharks, Heterodontus: A “Different” Kind

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Back in my early days of diving, a couple of men I knew sported necklaces featuring a single horn shark spine. Luckily, the days of West Coast divers killing harmless sharks for jewelry didn’t last long.  Horn sharks (Heterodontus francisci) are members of the order Heterodontiformes (bullhead sharks) and the family Heterodontidae. The genus name, Heterodontus, comes from two Greek words meaning “different teeth” and the species name, francisci, is derived from San Francisco, though these sharks rarely venture that far north.  Heterodontidae is a […]

SoCal’s Bluewater Sharks: The Blue Shark and Shortfin Mako

The first time I saw a blue shark was during the summer of 1975. I am certain of the timing because that time frame was the first time I dived at the Channel Islands. And when we were on our way to and from the islands during daylight hours we were almost certain to see the dorsal fins of dozens of blue sharks knifing their way along the surface.  That is not the case today. But maybe, just maybe, it can be that way again. […]

Swell Sharks

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What can I say? I am a sucker for cute and interesting faces underwater (other than divers, of course). And fortunately, for California underwater photographers we have many. But for me, I am especially drawn to our bottom dwelling sharks, specifically horn sharks and swell sharks. What fascinating faces! Of these two sharks I find the swell sharks to have the most interesting faces. Especially striking is the metallic golden colored eyes. Their flat heads spread out their funny “smiles” underneath. “Nostrils” just above the […]

How to Photograph Blue and Mako Sharks

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While you may be lucky enough to stumble upon a naturally inquisitive blue or mako shark on the edge of one of California’s lush kelp forests, your best bet is to head out to blue water where the continental shelf steepens before plunging into the deep Pacific. The days of diving into a writhing ball of pelagic predators may be long gone, but with a little patience (and an enticing chum slick) you’ll probably see a fin or two snaking towards your boat. When the […]

California Marine Life: Technology Provides New Insight Into White Shark Behavior

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The image of a white shark invokes extremes in our emotions. They bring out a deep, primal fear in some, while others experience joy in observing their grace and beauty. White sharks are big–up to twenty-one feet long and 7000 pounds. They have a mouthful of serrated teeth that are effectively used to hunt fish when they are young, but switch to marine mammals after they grow to nine or ten feet. On very rare occasions they will bite a human. Yet, those who have […]

Sevengill Shark

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One of the first things we noticed upon reaching the bottom was absolutely no fish–anywhere. The lighting was also strange: a strange, yellowish-green tinge to everything, lending a deserted, eerie feel to the whole place. But Dave and I had decided to forage eastward to see what we could find, so we plodded along the bottom, with Dave’s flash going off every now and then as he found some small, sessile life to photograph along the way. We continued deeper and deeper into this spooky, […]

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