An Overview Of Sharks In Cozumel
By Tom Seest
Cozumel is well known as an unparalleled destination for diving and snorkeling, offering some of the world’s most picturesque reefs to explore. As part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef system, this diving haven provides unparalleled underwater experiences.
Whale sharks visit these waters annually from March to September in search of sustenance such as krill and fish. Spotting one in person is a truly unforgettable experience that should be on every bucket list.
This photo was taken by Daniel Torobekov and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/vertical-shot-of-school-of-zebra-fish-and-shark-11348768/.
Table Of Contents
The Whale Shark is one of the world’s largest creatures. It feeds on plankton, an aquatic food source rich in tiny plant and animal life that it feeds upon. Equipped with five gills for filtering seawater and drawing oxygen through them, this massive creature thrives.
Although rarely seen, coral reefs like those of Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, and Holbox offer glimpses of marine life from all corners of the planet. Part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef system, these areas boast some of the richest coral reef ecosystems known to humanity.
Whale sharks are among the world’s most endangered species, so protecting them is of utmost importance. You can play your part by following some simple rules when snorkeling with these majestic marine predators.
Before entering the water, do not bring any chemical products, including sunscreen. Wear sunglasses, a hat, and a long-sleeve shirt as sun protection to avoid sunburns.
Make sure that you review the regulations of your tour operator before going. They should be able to provide details regarding their guidelines and good practices to protect whale sharks.
If you come across any tour company that does not adhere to these standards, it would be wise to choose another provider. Mexico has very stringent conservation requirements when it comes to whale sharks; therefore, it’s essential that any tour provider you book ethically operates.
Utila in Honduran waters has long been recognized as the “Whale Shark Capital of the Caribbean,” offering amazing scuba diving conditions. Additionally, this destination is noted as being among the most ethical whale shark locations.
Mexico’s Baja California offers excellent scuba diving conditions. Whale shark encounters are frequent, and the optimal time for encountering these gentle giants is during winter and early spring months from November to May.
If you want to swim with whale sharks, the ideal approach would be to choose a company with numerous positive reviews on TripAdvisor, like Solo Buceo. Booking with such an established provider increases your odds of spotting one!
This photo was taken by Daniel Torobekov and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/shark-and-school-of-zebra-fish-underwater-11348767/.
Hammerhead sharks are among the most frequently seen shark species when diving Cozumel. Omnivorous in nature, these sharks prefer feeding on fish, squid, and other marine life they find on the ocean floor.
These sharks possess specially shaped heads that enable them to search and hunt prey more quickly and easily than most sharks, acting as sensors that pick up on electrical pulses that all living things emit.
Electro receptors, located within the head of hammerhead sharks, help them locate prey quickly and effortlessly – which allows them to remain successful hunters even when competing against other sharks and rays for prey. This enables them to remain successful predators.
Hammerhead sharks possess an unusually wide mouth that gives them more surface area to hold food before crushing it with their jaws.
Hammerhead sharks possess an amazing feature called ampullae of Lorenzini that allows them to capture small prey they might otherwise miss, including crabs, shrimp, and fishes buried beneath the sand. Additionally, these unique sharks possess a special organ in their throats known as ampullae of Lorenzini that allows them to sense your heartbeat as part of a quick detection and patrolling strategy.
Nine species of hammerhead sharks are recognized and found globally in both tropical and temperate waters. Of these nine, the scalloped hammerhead is the most widespread, often found along coastal areas ranging from the Philippines to Australia.
They typically appear olive, bronze, or brown in color and reach lengths of 13 feet on average. Although most commonly seen nocturnally, they can sometimes be seen resting on coral reef bottoms during daylight hours.
The great hammerhead shark is the largest species of hammerhead shark and may reach 20 feet in length. Due to their cannibalism with other shark species, this shark has earned itself the title “one of the most fearsome.”
These hammerheads typically inhabit shallow coastal waters and tend to visit brackish bays and estuaries for sustenance, though they do occasionally travel deeper in order to escape summer heat waves.
This photo was taken by Taryn Elliott and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/gray-shark-under-blue-water-5858974/.
Bull sharks are found across both coastal and freshwater environments, from coastal reefs to river systems hundreds of miles inland! In fact, it has even been known to penetrate upriver systems far from any ocean.
These predators feed on a wide variety of food sources, from fish, shellfish, sea turtles, dolphins, and even other sharks to garbage found floating around rivers or the oceans.
Bull sharks differ from other shark species in that they prefer shallow waters where they can both find food sources and avoid potential predators.
Countershading, or dark top and light bottom colors, allows these sharks to blend into their environment easily. In particular, their wide width-to-length ratio and short dorsal fin make them distinct from other sharks.
These species are viviparous, meaning that they give birth to live young rather than laying eggs. After an 11-month gestation period, females produce 1-13 pups, giving birth either off Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, or South Africa in late spring or early summer.
Pups remain within their mothers’ bodies until reaching sexual maturity at around 15 years of age, feeding off of their yolk-sac placenta to reach sexual maturity 1.6-2.3 meters for males and 1.8-2.3 for females, respectively.
Although generally considered threatened, their numbers are slowly recovering and, in some areas, may even increase over time. They still face risks from human activities like pollution and habitat degradation, though.
Bull sharks may seem relatively small in size, but their aggressive behaviors make them among the most dangerous shark species for humans. Furthermore, their threat extends to other shark species like great whites and tiger sharks.
These species are not protected in the US, though they are listed as near threatened by IUCN. Furthermore, they have become targets of commercial fishing operations to gather liver oil and fins – while some individuals may even collect them solely to display in aquariums.
This photo was taken by Jeremy Bishop and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/gray-shark-in-blue-water-12089004/.
Nurse sharks are large marine predators found around the world’s warm coastal waters. You’re most likely to come across them off Africa, Central America, and South America’s shorelines, but you might also spot one in the Gulf of Mexico.
Cozumel divers often enjoy diving with sea turtles because of their slow-moving, bottom-dwelling nature, which is both benign and harmless to divers. But always remain aware of their presence while diving as these sea creatures may become aggressive if threatened.
These sharks are nocturnal, spending the night slowly swimming along coral reefs and sandy ocean floors, searching for food. By day, they lay at the bottom using buccal pumping as a breathing technique so they can remain stationary for hours while sleeping without constantly swimming like other sharks do.
Be mindful that these sharks, although quite gentle, do not possess large teeth; should you step on them accidentally or pose a threat, they could bite. Therefore, while scuba diving, never touch or attempt to grab these creatures in any way.
These sharks can often be seen resting during the day on sandy bottoms or reef overhangs, under crevasses or reef overhangs, or sleeping collectively – known as “snuggle parties.”
Nurse sharks get their name due to the strange sucking sound they make when feeding on pebbles or other small prey, resembling that of nursing babies.
This shark is both fascinating and essential to marine ecosystems, particularly near fragile coral reefs. Frequently found in shallow waters and often feeding upon shrimp, squid, fish, and pebbles it feeds upon an abundance of marine animals, including shrimp, squid, fish, and pebbles.
Sharks can reach 14 feet long and can weigh from 150 to 730 pounds, according to National Marine Fisheries Service estimates. Sharks are considered protected species as part of its Shark Management Plan, which seeks to preserve marine environments across Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico waters.
This photo was taken by Cliff Simon and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-shark-underwater-8065516/.