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VIDEO: Irish research team find basking sharks can jump as high and as fast as great whites

A collaborative team of marine biologists has discovered that basking sharks, found often off the coast of Ireland, can jump as fast and as high out of the water as the great white sharks.

Video credit: Bren Whelan & Queen's University Belfast.

Basking sharks are the second largest fish in the world, reaching lengths of up to 10m (33ft). Until now, they have previously had a reputation for being slow and languid as they scour the sea for their staple diet of plankton

However, a new recently published study, used video analysis to see if this great beast from the sea lived up to its sluggish stereotype.

In one video, the shark cleared the water leaping at a height of 1.2 m above the surface.

The basking shark videos were recorded in 2015 at Malin Head, County Donegal.

Assistant Professor in Zoology at Trinity College Dublin, Dr Nick Payne, was a co-author of the journal article.

He added that, "The impressive turn of speed that we found basking sharks exhibit shows how much we are yet to learn about marine animals."

"This finding does not mean though that basking sharks are secretly fierce predators tearing round at high speed; they are still gentle giants munching away happily on zooplankton" is what Dr Jonathan Houghton, Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology at Queen’s University Belfast had to say about the video.

The collaborative research team comprised biologists from Queen’s University Belfast, University of Roehampton, Trinity College Dublin, University of Cape Town, the Irish Basking Shark Study Group and the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity.