In the northern reaches of India, the Ganges River flows with its mysteries and wonders, including the enigmatic Ganges Shark. This elusive species is one of the few true freshwater sharks in the world, and its presence in the sacred waters of the Ganges has long captured the imagination of Indians and visitors alike. According to local folklore, the Ganges Shark is a powerful and mystical creature, possessing the ability to bring good luck and fortune to those who catch a glimpse of it in the wild. Yet despite its legendary status, the Ganges Shark is also an endangered species, threatened by habitat loss and overfishing, making its presence in the Ganges all the more precious and awe-inspiring.
|1||Common name||Ganges shark|
|2||Scientific name||Glyphis gangeticus|
|3||Colour||Grayish-brown on the upper side, lighter on the underside|
|4||Average length in m||1.6 – 2.0 meters (5.2 to 6.5 feet)|
|5||Average weight in kgs||Unknown, but likely less than 100 kilograms|
|6||Found in river systems of||Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Mahanadi rivers in India and Bangladesh|
|7||Habitat||Freshwater environments, including large rivers|
|8||Any special characteristics||Shark that is adapted to freshwater habitats|
The Ganges shark, also known as the freshwater shark or the river shark, is a critically endangered species of shark found in the freshwater rivers of India and Bangladesh. It is one of only a few shark species that can survive in freshwater habitats.
In terms of appearance, the Ganges shark has a sleek and streamlined body with a pointed snout and a dorsal fin located towards the rear of the body. The color of the Ganges shark ranges from grayish-brown to bronze, with a pale underside. Its body is covered in small, rough scales that help protect it from potential predators.
The average weight of an adult Ganges shark is around 200-300 pounds, with females typically being larger than males. The Ganges shark is a relatively small shark species, with adults typically measuring between 1.6 and 2.0 meters (5.2 to 6.5 feet) in length.
The physical characteristics of the Ganges shark are adapted to its freshwater habitat. It has a special kidney structure that allows it to maintain proper salt levels in its body despite living in a low-salinity environment. Its eyes are adapted to the murky waters of rivers, with a tapetum lucidum that enhances its vision in low light conditions. Its powerful tail allows it to navigate through swift currents, and its sharp teeth are used to catch prey such as fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. The primary role of the Ganges shark is to serve as a top predator in the freshwater food chain, feeding on smaller fish and maintaining the balance of the ecosystem.
Ganges sharks prefer to inhabit deep pools and eddies, where the water is slow-moving and there is plenty of covers provided by rocks, logs, and other debris. They are known to move between freshwater and brackish water, depending on the season, flow of water, water temperature, prey availability, and reproductive needs. These sharks are bottom-dwellers, feeding on a variety of prey including fish, crustaceans, and mollusks.
The Ganges shark is found in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna river system, which is one of the largest river systems in the world. The Ganges River originates in the Himalayas and flows through several Indian states before emptying into the Bay of Bengal. The Brahmaputra River also originates in the Himalayas and flows through Tibet, India, and Bangladesh before joining the Ganges River. The Meghna River is a major tributary of the Brahmaputra River and flows through Bangladesh before emptying into the Bay of Bengal.
Ganges shark is currently listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is believed to have declined by over 50% in the past 20 years. Unfortunately, the Ganges shark is facing several threats to its survival. Habitat loss due to dam construction, pollution, and overfishing are major factors that have contributed to the decline in the population of these sharks. The construction of dams on the rivers has altered the natural flow of water and destroyed the deep pools and eddies that the Ganges sharks prefer to inhabit. Pollution from human activities such as agriculture, industry, and sewage has also severely impacted the water quality of the rivers, making it difficult for the sharks to survive. Overfishing, both for food and for use in traditional medicine, has also taken a toll on the Ganges shark population.
Another factor contributing to the Ganges shark’s threatened status is its slow reproductive rate. Females typically give birth to only two to three pups every two years, which makes it difficult for the species to recover from population declines.
The consumption of Ganges shark in India is relatively low due to cultural and religious beliefs. Despite this, there are some areas in India where the consumption of Ganges shark meat is practiced. In some parts of West Bengal, for example, the shark is considered a delicacy and is eaten during special occasions like weddings and festivals. However, the consumption of Ganges shark is limited to a small number of communities and is not widespread across the country.
Conservation efforts are underway to protect the remaining populations of Ganges sharks. Several protected areas have been established to preserve the natural habitat of these sharks, and fishing regulations have been implemented to reduce the impact of overfishing. Public awareness campaigns have also been launched to educate local communities about the importance of conservation and the role that they can play in protecting the Ganges shark and its habitat.