When it comes to amazing animals that both fascinate and scare us, some reign supreme over others. Snakes are a great example here but perhaps the number one are sharks. These fierce and deadly ocean-going predators have long caught the human imagination. On one hand stunningly beautiful but on the other totally savage, sharks are still one of nature’s relative unknowns to us. From well-known species like Great Whites, Tiger, Bull and Lemon to more unknown ones like Basking or Hammerhead, sharks are real kings of the sea.
If you love sharks and want to know more about them, here are the ten most amazing facts you may not already know.
10 – Humans are the shark’s biggest threat
This may sound a little strange – after all, we are the ones getting eaten by sharks and terrified of them, aren’t we?! However, reports show that the biggest predator that sharks face is us humans. Every year, it is thought that around 200 million are killed by humans for their meat, teeth of dorsal fins. To be fair, as sharks are so high up on the food chain then we are practically the only other thing that could trouble them! However, this shocking statistic shows just how much of a threat we pose to them.
09 – Some species give birth live
Most species of shark give birth in a similar way to other fish. That is, they lay egg sacs on the ocean floor and then wait for them to hatch. Not so for some species like the Blue or Mako shark though! Some sharks actually give birth to fully formed and alive pups as they swim along! No-one knows why only some sharks do this, but it is certainly an unusual way to give birth.
08 – Not all hunt alone
We have all seen the films where a lone predator like one Great White hunts its prey alone. However, for some sharks this is not how it works at all. Many species actually like to hunt in packs in the same way as some land animals do. Blue sharks are a great example of this and travel long distances in large groups to feed. No-one knows exactly how far they normally go for a meal, but it seems they prefer hunting in groups to catch more food.
07 – Bull sharks are pretty grumpy
Everyone always thinks that the Great White is the most aggressive shark that is most dangerous to humans. Of course, they are pretty aggressive and can easily eat you if they want but the Bull shark is actually grumpier! Bull sharks are very, very territorial so if you happen to swim into its ends by mistake, they will attack. Although they do not move that quickly, their strength and unpredictability makes them the shark many say is most dangerous to humans.
06 – Not all avoid fresh water
We all know sharks are found in the world’s oceans which may make you think that they only like salt water. While this is true for many, some species like our friend the Bull shark can live in fresh water also. Many will also live in estuaries where there is a mixture of fresh and salt water as the oceans join the rivers. This can often be where trouble lies as people play in fresh water, not expecting a shark to be there. For this reason, it is always worth remembering that some sharks will live happily in any water.
05 – Some would drown if they stopped swimming
Sharks are such beautifully designed machines for ocean life that this seems crazy. However, some species like the Great White or Salmon shark would actually drown if they ever stopped swimming. This means they have to remain in constant movement when travelling the world’s seas. The problem for some sharks is that they do not have the right muscles to pump water over their gills. The only way to be able to solve this is to keep moving and enable water to be filtered through their gills by this movement.
04 – Not all are top line predators
When we think about sharks like the Tiger or Bull, we think about killing machines that are pretty high up on the food chain. With rows of sharp teeth and an urge for meat, they are normally associated with being the apex predator in an ocean. This is not true for all sharks though. The Whale Shark for example only feasts on tiny Krill and does not have any large sets of serrated teeth to chomp on things with. What is true for all sharks however is that they can go through up to 30,000 teeth in their lifetime!
03 – World’s oldest predator
Sharks are believed to have swam the planets oceans for around 450 million years which makes them one of the oldest predators around. This makes them an evolutionary predator from dinosaurs by about 200 million years and explains why they are so good at it. After all, they have had lots of practice. They are one of the only creatures to have survived the 5 global extinctions Earth has seen and then gone onto adapt to survive in the current conditions.
02 – Body language is key to sharks
Many marine animals will use echolocation to detect prey or get their bearings. Sharks do not however and instead rely on body language and electrical pulses to operate. This not only enables them to hunt prey but also communicate with other sharks. Body language in particular is important for sharks and how we interact with them. As a human going into their territory, knowing how to read a shark’s body language can often be what keeps you safe.
01 – A shark is biggest fish on Earth
Recorded as the biggest fish around, the Whale Shark is a real monster. Coming in at up to 60-foot-long and up to 20 tonnes in weight, they are easily the biggest fish in our seas. They even beat Whales which is how the got their name. Interestingly, these sharks are not one of the aggressive types that can be a danger to humans. It would seem that they go for the ‘gentle giant’ approach instead and leave others to spread terror.
As the above shows, sharks are truly amazing animals that should be revered and protected. Of course, humans should be protected from any unduly aggressive ones that come too close to our beaches to hunt but in the main, we are more dangerous to them. If you love sharks and needed some cool facts to tell your friend about, the above should help.