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5 MARINE ANIMALS OF BAJA CALIFORNIA YOU SHOULD GET TO KNOW · PELAGIC SAFARI

Hammerhead Shark Pelagic Safari

5 MARINE ANIMALS OF BAJA CALIFORNIA YOU SHOULD GET TO KNOW · PELAGIC SAFARI

 

While we love taking people on Pelagic Safari’s and showing off the marine wildlife of Los Cabos for magical undewater encounters in both snorkeling and freediving, our mission also invovles promoting a connection with animals. To accomplish this we love teaching our patrons about the importance of animal conservation. With that being said, we aim to educate our Pelagic Guests on not just the animal residents in the area, but those found all over the world that also migrate here. That’s why, in this blog, we’re going to highlight some of the animals we love having encounters with the most.

 

Smooth Hammerhead (Sphyrna zygaena)

A member of large and easily recognizable group of sharks, the Smooth Hammerhead can be distinguished from the other hammerhead species by the single notch in the centre of its hammer-shaped head. The Smooth  migrates to Los Cabo’s  from February through April for mating and feeding.

Smooth Hammerhead sharks are an oceanic and coastal-pelagic species that are found in temperate and tropical waters worldwide. This species prefers water temperatures of about 26˚C. They are primarily found on continental and insular shelves, to depths of 200 meters, but are often found in shallower water including rivers and inlets with brackish water.

Smooth Hammerhead’s feed on bony fish, small sharks, skate, stingrays, and squid. Young sharks of this species are known to migrate in schools.

The hammer-like shape of the head, called the cephalofoil, gives all sharks in this species their common name. The head of the Smooth Hammerhead lacks notches except near the eyes, and like some of the other species, it is slightly curved. Countershading is apparent with a olive-gray to brown back and white belly.

 

Mako Sharks (Isurus paucus and Isurus oxyrinchus)

From December to April this is one of our favorite shark species to encounter!!!

There are two species of Mako sharks; the Longfin Mako (Isurus paucus) and the Shortfin Mako (Isurus oxyrinchus). Both are widespread globally in both warm-temperate and tropical oceans from 50˚N to 50˚S. The Longfin Mako is often confused with the Shortfin Mako, which is more commonly encountered.

Makos are the fastest shark in the ocean. They are capable of short bursts of up to 80 kph (50 mph) and can swim at sustained speeds of 35 kph (22 mph). This speed helps them to catch their main prey items like tuna, which are also fast swimming. They are a highly migratory and active species.

Although Shortfin and Longfin Mako sharks appear to be similar, the one we encounter the most in Los Cabos is the Short Fin Mako. They are distinguished from one another by color and fin length. The Shortfin Mako has a blue or purple back with a white belly. The Longfin mako has a more dusky colored underside than the shortfin mako. Longfin Mako’s also have much longer pectoral fins than the Shortfin Mako.

 

Olive Ridley Sea Turtles (Lepidochelys olivácea)

Los Cabos also has a sea turtle season, with five of the eight extant sea turtle species nesting on Baja California beaches from July through February. Our favorite one is the Olive Ridley!

They are distributed in the Pacific, Indian, and South Atlantic Oceans, and prefer food in coastal waters, mainly from bays and estuaries. In the eastern Pacific, there is a range from Mexico to Colombia and occasionally they are found on the southwest coast of the United States. In addition to these coasts, the Olive’s Ridley can also be found on the coasts of the western Atlantic in Suriam, French Guiana and Guiana. Some individuals (not nesting) are found on Isla Margarita, Venezuela, and Trinidad and Tobago. However, they are very rarely found there and more commonly located here in the Caribbean. Olive Ridley turtles can dive to depths of meters to feed on crustaceans found on the seabed.

The Lora tortoise can nest either massively or solitary. During the nesting period turtles are likely to destroy most of the first nesting species because of the high number of nesting turtles in a relatively small area. Females nest one, two, or even three times per season, but they can be reared in one or two years. The interval for a female between clutches is 28 days for arrivals or 14 days for solitary nesting. Each nest has about 100 or more eggs, which last about 55 days until they are born. The Pacific coasts of Central America are important nesting sites. This species is highly migratory.

They are given the common name “Lora’’ because of the peak form of their jaw, which facilitates their feeding.

Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

January through March is peak season for the annual migration of Humpback whales in Los Cabos.

The marine mammals leave their winter feeding grounds in the Arctic for warmer climates in Mexico and Hawaii, where they breed, give birth, and nurse their young.

The Humpback whale is distributed worldwide in all ocean basins. In winter, most Humpback whales reside in the subtropical and tropical waters of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Humpback whales in the high latitudes of the North Pacific are seasonal migrants that feed on euphausiids and small schooling fishes (Nemoto 1957, 1959; Clapham and Mead 1999).

These giants of the deep are slow swimmers, making them easy targets for whalers in the first half of the 20th century, when they were killed by the thousands for their blubber. Now protected, Humpback populations have grown to nearly 54,000 worldwide— over 45 percent of their original numbers. Although the North Pacific population was previously estimated between 6,000 to 8,000, a recent population estimate based on 2004-2006 data was slightly over 18,000 individuals. Despite this dramatic increase, current numbers are considerably smaller than pre-whaling population estimates.

Humpbacks travel in loose groups (called pods) and may form distinct populations. Humpback whales reach sexual maturity at nine years of age, and an adult female will bear a calf generally every one to five years. Female whales develop strong and lasting bonds with their calves. The calf nurses frequently on its mother’s milk until about 11 months old, and remains with its mother for a year or longer. The oldest documented age of a Humpback Whale was estimated at 48 years old; however, Humpback Whales are thought likely to live much longer.

Munk’s Devil Ray (Mobula munkiana)

We love to have magical encounters with this playful and acrobatic species, the peak season for encounters of the Mobula is from May until July.

Hundreds of Mobula rays congregate in the Baja California Sur every year. In one of the most spectacular wildlife performances of our earth, these beautiful animals can be seen leaping from the water. Sometimes four or five Mobula’s at a time will leap from the water reaching a height of nine feet or more above the water, before returning to earth with a loud splash!!

The Munk’s Devil Ray is both coastal and pelagic, 0-15 meters. This species is found in the Eastern Pacific from the Gulf of California to Peru. Their migrations, which are both local and regional, are thought to be associated with changes in water temperature as well as food availability.

This species is commonly found in large schools, especially during the summer.

Schools are not segregated by gender, but may be segregated by size. Mobula munkiana are also known to leap out of the water. The reasoning behind this display is unclear, but may be related to mating or other social behaivours.

Appearance: The head is narrow and the tail is medium in length and lacks a barb. The top of the body is black to purplish-black with blue/gray pectoral fins, dark wing tips contrasting a White belly.

Come meet these beautiful species and many others on a Pelagic Safari!

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Pelagic Safari Team

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