Shark Bay, Australia – The Ideal Natural World Heritage Site

Posted in Australia & Pacific | October 12, 2010 | Comment Now

Shark Bay could be considered the western most point of Australia and is said to be made up of a conglomeration of islands and the lands that surround it. The vast sea beds spell ‘green’ and are perhaps, the largest and the richest in the world. The dugong, nicknamed the sea cow, is native to these waters. The stromatolites make for quite an interesting sight. The region of Shark Bay is also said to house five species of animals that are listed under the ‘endangered’ list.

Shark Bay and World Heritage Site Listings:

Shark Bay got listed as a World Heritage Site in the year 1991. This region fulfills all of the four criteria that are needed to make it to the list as a Natural Heritage Site.

The Criteria For Natural Heritage Sites:
  • Encapsulates major stages of the evolutionary history of the world
  • Has been witness to biological and geological processes
  • Possesses natural beauty
  • Houses threatened species
About Shark Bay:

This World Heritage Area is known to cover about 2.2 million hectares and is said to boast of a coastline that is over 932 miles. The landscapes and the seascapes can best be described as being diverse and colorful.

Landscape of Shark Bay:

The two peninsulas of Peron and Edel Land, coupled with the eastern coastal strip and the three islands make for a ‘W’ shaped shoreline.

Edel land is said to comprise its characteristic rocky limestone and the white sand dunes. The spectacular cliffs at the western end more than make up for the otherwise abrupt end. The bays of the eastern side come sprinkled with smaller rocky islands.

Peron peninsula is said to boast of red sand hills. These get adequate company from the plains that get interspersed with gypsum hollows called birridas.

Seascape of Shark Bay:

More than 70% of Shark Bay is said to be marine. The warm waters are said to be about 9 meters deep and are quite a sight owing to the patterns created by the seagrass meadows and the channels and banks that intersperse. The seaward side of Shark Bay is said to have some deeper waters and here the water is known to crash against the rocky reefs.

The peninsulas, prongs and islands are said to be home to a number of plants and animals, some of which are not even found anywhere on planet earth. The stromatolites are one such example. These are solidified versions of microscopic organisms that may have early on been invisible to the human eye. They may have been the first ever organisms to have lived on planet Earth and have a lineage that dates back to about 3500 million years.

Animal and Marine Life Found In Shark Bay:

(Note: This is perhaps a very long list and cannot be encompassed in a single write up. For the sake of information, the rarer species are being discussed here.)

Banded Hare – Wallaby:

This was one of the earliest recorded macropods; which in plain English would translate to being a member of the ‘kangaroo’ family. This animal averages at about 43 centimeters and has a tail that is 37 centimeters long. The Banded Hare-Wallaby is characteristic of its dark grey fur, with dark bands running across the rump and lower back. The underbelly is a light grey.

This animal is known to spend most of its day in a group and will shelter itself under extremely dense shrubbery. The adults coming from each sex group appear to have some well-defined boundaries in place. Overall, this is one animal species that seems to have peaceful interactions. The interactions may take a violent overtone when there is a shortage of food.

Shark Bay Mouse:

This is a small and yet robust rodent; and is known by its long and grizzled brown fur, which fades to a lighter white on its underside. The tail is known to be longer than the body and head put together. This species of the mouse is definitely cuter than the versions we see around.

The Shark Bay mouse is most commonly known to live in the coastal dunes and other such sandy areas. It will choose an area with a lot of flowers; where there are a lot of spiders and other insects to live on. It does build burrows, but will not use them as much as we expect mice to.

Dugong (Sea Cow):

The dugong, on first sight, will resemble an oversized dolphin. It has paddle like flippers, a portly body and is equipped with a fluked tail. This animal, however, is closer to the elephant, when we talk about belonging to a certain animal family. The elongated snout is known to face downwards and it has a bristly mobile upper lip which is generally used to strip seagreass. The adult males, and in some rare cases even the females, may have short tusk like growth. There are special valves to keep the nostrils closed while they’re underwater. The heavy skeletal structure helps in keeping the dugong low when it’s trying to feed to on the seagrass. The intestine of this creature is said to be long (20 meters) and thick (as thick as a fire hose).

The dugong is said to be globally ‘vulnerable to extinction’. Sharks and killer whales may prey on dugongs, but the real culprits are coastal development and pollution. These end up destroying the beds of seagrass. Most killings of dugongs are accidental and happen due to them getting struck down by boats. These creatures are extremely slow to react when they’re feeding; and this is one of the reasons why they’re vulnerable to such accidents.

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