Earlier this year, a female shortfin mako shark named “Carol” traveled 8,265 miles in 6 months, according to New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. Shortfin makos are the world’s fastest sharks, according to the institute, swimming at about 62 miles per hour.
Blue sharks regularly migrate across the Atlantic Ocean, shark-tagging projects have determined. A study by the Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco and University of Florida, for example, monitored a blue shark off the coast of Brazil and detected it in Africa 87 days later. Unfortunately, blue sharks are also the most frequently caught shark species in the South Atlantic, demonstrating that greater protection of these sharks is needed.
Whale sharks travel in waters off of approximately 124 countries, but they especially seem to love Australia. According to Australia’s Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, whale sharks swim at least 15 miles per day. They travel hundreds of miles, with some whale sharks going from Ningaloo Marine Park to Christmas Island, a distance of over 1,200 miles.
Great white sharks probably don’t have time for vacations, but they certainly hit some of the most popular vacation spots. A recent study in the Journal of Marine Biology, for example, determined that female great whites undergo a two-year migration from Mexico, where they mate, then head to California and Hawaii before ending at Baja, Calif. They give birth at Baja, going over to Guadalupe Island afterward.
Until a study earlier this year, basking sharks were thought to be homebodies. Researchers from the Basking Shark Study Group tagged one 16-foot-long female named “Banda” off the coast of Ireland. Some 3,100 miles later, Banda was located basking in the tropical waters off of Africa, near Senegal.
Tiger sharks are another well-traveled shark species. Shark tagging by Mahmood Shivji, director of the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University, and colleagues determined that some of the sharks swim from waters off of Bermuda to the Bahamas. After hanging out there for several warm months, they then go to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean -- but for what? Shivji isn’t sure if it is for food, sex or something else.
Toothy bull sharks are formidable predators. This is the only species of shark that can exist for long periods in freshwater, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (bull sharks are sadly categorized as “near threatened”). They have been documented traveling up and down very long rivers, such as the Amazon, Gambia, Ganges, Mississippi, San Juan, Tigris and Zambezi.
Blacktip sharks, such as the one seen here, along with spinner sharks and certain other shark species, travel in large schools down the U.S. East Coast. Thousands of the sharks have been seen in Florida from January through March. The sharks stay in these warmer waters until April, when they begin to head back north.
Lemon sharks also convene on Florida by the hundreds, traveling long distances down the coast to reach their destination: Lovers Lane. The site, located in waters off of Jupiter, Fla., is where the sharks gather to mate, according to Samuel Gruber, a University of Miami marine biologist.
Shark females are really on the move, likely due to mating and birthing concerns. The unrivaled speed-and-distance queen is a female great white named “Nicole.” A study in the journal Science determined that she swam 12,400 miles in nine months, from Africa to Australia and back. Her journey was the first documented round-trip ocean crossing by a shark.