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Whale Shark/iStock Photo

March 17, 2016. Water / Oceans

Marine Flagship Species (3 of 6)

Flagship species are iconic representatives of their ecosystems and charismatic creatures that capture human attention

Cristina G. Mittermeier, Gregory S. Stone, Russell A. Mittermeier, Octavio Aburto-Oropeza, Claudio Campagna, Kent E. Carpenter, Laurence P. Madin, David Obura, Enric Sala, Sebastian Troëng, Peter A. Seligman & Stefan Gutermuth

Sharks and their Relatives

Few other animals on land or sea evoke such a wide range of human emotions as sharks, from primordial fear to fascination and awe. We fear them, yet simultaneously, we admire them for their majestic beauty, intriguing evolutionary history and impressive biological adaptations. Rays, skates, guitarfish and sawfish are part of the shark family.

The many species of sharks—440 and counting—range from top predators on reefs and open sea, to harmless bottomdwellers. They range in size from the tiny eight-inch-long dwarf lanternshark, to the whale shark, the world’s largest fish, reaching more than twelve meters.

They fill unique and important ecological niches that make them critical for the healthy functioning of ecosystems. Moreover, like other long-lived marine mega fauna, sharks are slow to reach maturity and reproduce. These traits mean that shark populations grow slowly and are highly susceptible to human threats.

This is an excerpt from the CEMEX Conservation Series Book Oceans: Heart of Our Blue Planet (2011)

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Heart of our Blue Planet

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