Story at a glance
- London’s River Thames was declared “biologically dead” in 1957 due to high levels of pollution.
- Sixty-four years later, it is boasting lower levels of chemicals and now sustains an ecosystem of more than 115 species of fish and 92 species of bird.
- The River Thames is also home to three species of sharks: tope, starry smooth-hound and spurdog.
Sixty-four years after being declared “biologically dead,” London’s River Thames is in the midst of a revival, boasting lower levels of chemicals and making it inhabitable for seals, sea horses and even sharks.
According to the Zoological Society of London, three species of shark were detected in the river as it prepared its most recent State of the Thames report. The three species of shark include tope, starry smooth-hound and spurdog.
The starry smooth-hound are small, thin sharks that can reach a maximum length of about 4 feet and tend to stay along the ocean floor, feeding on crabs, lobsters and small bony fish.
In contrast, the spurdog, while only reaching a maximum length of about 3.5 feet, has venomous spines on its dorsal fin to ward off predators. Classified as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, the spurdog feeds on bony fish.
The River Thames has taken great strides since high levels of pollution left it biologically dead in 1957, with the Zoological Society of London finding that the Thames now sustains an ecosystem of more than 115 species of fish, 92 species of bird and contains about 600 hectares of salt marshes, or coastal wetlands.
“Flowing through one of the world’s greatest cities, the Tidal Thames is home to myriad wildlife as diverse as London itself,” Andrew Terry, the Zoological Society of London’s director of conservation and policy, wrote in the study’s foreword, adding, “As we increasingly recognise the intrinsic and economic value of nature’s services to humans, we hope to see investment in the continued restoration of the river.”
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