I know what you’re already thinking, primarily because the majority of the world’s population’s exposure to sharks is from the movie Jaws or in relation to all the negative media coverage of infrequent shark attacks. Let’s get that out of the way right now, because you’re more likely to be crushed by a vending machine falling onto you than to getting attacked by a shark. Sharks are incredible marine creatures with over 440 different species known to date! Unfortunately, the mass amounts of recreational fishing, pollution and habitat loss, and shark finning, the amount of sharks in the sea is not near what it used to be, leaving a great number of shark species to face extinction. These are dangers imposed by human beings. Yes, us.
Amazing Shark Anatomy
There are numerous qualities that make them different from other fish-like creatures, and some little-known facts that can bring you an awe-inspiring perspective on these magnificent creatures of the sea. One of these qualities is that shark skeletons do not have any bones, the few structural components of their skeleton is cartilage, instead. This enables them to be much more flexible, and gives them an agility advantage while reducing energy expenditures. Their jaw structure can also aid in their efficiency since it is not attached to the skull. The upper and lower jaws are independent and allows for them to lift their head up in thrusting their mouths towards their prey.
What Sharks Eat
Speaking of shark prey, the majority of sharks are considered carnivorous creatures. Sharks have a fairly wide range of diet, feeding on anything between small crustaceans, fish, squid, seals, birds, and other small sea creatures, typically found in salt water. Humans are not a part of their diet. While there have been instances of attacks on humans (albeit so few), they are actually more afraid of us than we are of them. The majority of sharks prefer to stay in water that is at least 2000 meters (6500 feet) in depth. If you stay within the first sandbar, you more than likely won’t even chance an encounter. They tend to keep their distance from a lot of activity, so it’s even less likely if there are other people in the water with you. Again, they are more afraid of you, and prefer waters that are much deeper than we are even remotely comfortable swimming in.
They Can Smell Blood, Right?
It is a well-known fact that sharks can smell a drop of blood in the water from great distances, but this fact is likely misunderstood. Sharks do have a very keen sense of smell, in which they can detect blood at one particle per million. The way they can tell the direction is by the time it takes for the scent to go from one nostril to the other. In order for that drop of blood to reach a shark’s nostrils, it will have had to travel to where the shark is, which could take a very long time, depending on your proximity to the shark (either out at sea or on the beach). Despite the potential fear factor of this quality in sharks, it is one that is truly remarkable, and few other creatures have similar senses to match.
Impressive Shark Senses
Among the senses that sharks have include another interesting fact; sharks can also sense electricity. Every living organism emits, at the very least, a weak electrical pulse. The hammerhead shark, for example, can sense the minuscule electrical pulses given off by its prey. Even if a small fish is hidden, the hammerhead shark, if close enough, will be able to detect the electrical signals given off by the fish, and be able to pinpoint its location to go in for the attack. The hammerhead is also the only shark with a flexible head, which allows it maneuverability that most other creatures don’t have. The hammerhead shark can quickly turn on dime if needed to!
Sharks also have incredible eyesight. Similar to a cat, sharks have a mirror-like layer in the back of their eyes that allow for double the incoming light. This gives them the ability to see exceptionally well in low-light conditions. Can you imagine what that would be like to experience? It would be like wearing night vision goggles, but without everything covered in that filtered shade of green! While our eyes are able to adjust between high and low light, sharks are capable to see in the dark two times better than we can!
Survival of the Fittest
With a typical life span being between 20 and 30 years, sharks tend to mature more slowly. Their typical breeding age ranges from around 12 to 15 years old. Their breeding habits are different than that of most fish and sea creatures. Shark babies have a much higher survival rate than the majority of other sea creatures because they produce a smaller quantity, yet higher quality offspring. The babies are much more developed at birth.
Save the Sharks!
Even though their survival rate from birth is much higher, their population is not growing as fast as we would like it to. Human interaction with these beautiful sea creatures is the single largest cause for the endangerment of multiple species of sharks. Among the endangered shark species, some of these include the Borneo Shark, Gulper Shark, Speartooth, Whitefin, Narrownose Smoothhound, and Great Hammerhead. There is also a number of shark species that are considered critically endangered, including the Ganges shark, New Guinea river shark, sawback angel, and the daggernose shark. We are saddened by what our species is doing to theirs through pollution, finning, and other careless acts that we have imposed on them. For information on how you can help save these wondrous sea creatures, read more on Shark Sider to see how you can be involved to help save the sharks.