ALTON, Ill. – This is “Shark Week” and fascinating new research reveals something rare, scary, and exciting does happen in Midwestern waters. A study in the Journal of the Marine and Fishery Sciences says that sharks have been spotted twice in the Mississippi River near St. Louis over the past 84-years.
One of the sharks was caught near Alton, Illinois on September 6, 1937. The city is located around 1,740 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. It weighed 84 lbs and was about five feet long. At the time, the Lock and Dam at Alton was the first major obstruction going north on the Mississippi River.
The other shark was caught in 1995 at the Rush Island Power Station near St. Louis.
Most bull sharks in freshwater have been spotted in Florida and Louisiana. But, it is extremely rare for them to travel over a thousand miles upriver.
Researchers Dr. Ryan Shell and Nicholas Gardner have some theories about why the sharks would travel so far north. One hypothesis is that this may be new behavior.
The other idea is that sharks have a wide global range and it may be deeply rooted in the evolutionary history of the species.
But, other than the two examples over 84 years, there appear to be no other records of bull sharks in the Midwest. This includes examples from indigenous people and the recent fossil record.
There is one more idea the researchers have as to why sharks would be spotted near St. Louis:
“The third possible hypothesis is simply that the tendency of the bull shark to move into the upper Mississippi River is rare and anomalous to the point of being unprecedented in North America.”
They believe that the subject of sharks in the upper Mississippi River needs more research to find the answers.