(OCEAN CONSERVATION/SHARKS) This week kicks off Discovery Channel’s most anticipated summer staple, Shark Week. Referred to as “the Super Bowl of the sea,” Shark Week is the longest-running cable TV programming event in history and a feeding frenzy in terms of ratings.
But while Shark Week is good for the Discovery Channel, many are asking: Is it good for sharks?
“For shark conservation to gain traction, we need a supportive public,” which may be harder to come by “if people are constantly being exposed to images that portray sharks as violent and dangerous,” according to Suzannah Evans, a doctoral student in science communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In 2014, three people were killed by sharks worldwide. However, as many as 273 million sharks are killed by humans each year from recreational fishing, habitat loss, pollution, bycatching, and perhaps most prominently, shark finning.
“Shark Week provides access to audiences who are interested in sharks, yet the image of sharks presented by the Discovery Channel emphasizes their potential violence over their declining numbers,” Evans and co-author Jessica Gall Myrick explain in “Do PSAs Take a Bite Out of Shark Week? The Effects of Juxtaposing Environmental Messages With Violent Images of Shark Attacks.”
There’s no denying that sharks are in dire need of protection as they’re populations continue to decline–placing them among the most threatened marine life on Earth, with some species even facing extinction.
It’s clear that humans are much more of a threat to sharks than they are to us. Scroll below to learn the brutal truth about shark attacks versus shark finning. — Global Animal
Bite-sized Facts About Sharks
- Sharks have been around for 400 million years
- Pre-dating dinosaurs and even trees!
- They have had little need to evolve
- A testament to just how effective their anatomical make-up is.
- There are over 400 types of shark
- 500 known species if you include those that are extinct.
- Sharks vary widely in size
- From the 8 inch pygmy lantern shark, right up to the 60ft whale shark.
- Despite their negative portrayal in media and film, shark attacks are extremely rare
- You’re more likely to be crushed by a falling vending machine, or be struck by lightning.
- Shark anatomy is fairly consistent across the species
- But each have their own unique features.
- Sharks have skeletons made up of cartilage rather than bone
- Cartilage is more durable and lighter than bone, helping the shark save energy.
- Unlike most fish, sharks don’t have a gas-filled swim bladder
- Instead, they have an oil filled liver that offers buoyancy, using this in conjunction with forward movement to control vertical position.
- The jaws of sharks are not attached to their skull
- They move separately , allowing them to thrust forward and latch onto prey.
- The surface of a shark’s jaws have extra support called ‘tesserae’
- These tiny hexagonal plates are made up of calcium salt deposits, giving cartilage more strength.
- Shark’s may have up to 3,000 teeth at one time
- They are fully embedded into the gums, with shape and size varying depending on their purpose.
- Sharks continuously grow multiple rows of teeth
- When a shark breaks or loses a tooth, a new one moves forward to replace it, much like a conveyor belt.
- It’s estimated that some sharks may lose 30,000 or more teeth in their lifetime!
- Tooth replacement rates vary from several days to several months.
- Most sharks have 8 rigid fins
- A pair of pectoral fins, a pair of pelvic fins, one or two dorsal fins, an anal fin and a caudal fin (tail).
- All sharks are carnivorous
- Ranging from small bivalves and crustaceans, to seals and even other sharks.
- Sharks can be found in all seas
- They generally avoid fresh water with the exception of some species, and are commonly found to a depth of 2,000 meters.
- Not all sharks are solitary
- Many sharks a very social, hunting in packs or congregating in large numbers during breeding.
- Sharks need to keep moving in order to breathe
- Some species have evolved to remain stationary, resting on the sea bed and pumping water over their gills.
- Sharks never enter a true state of sleep
- Some species are able to ‘sleep swim’, as their swimming is coordinated by their spinal cord as opposed to their brain.
- Sharks can detect blood at one part per million
- They can even determine the direction of a particular scent based on the time it takes to reach one nostril compared to the other.
- Sharks have keen eyesight
- As well as their acute smell, sharks have great eyesight even in dimly lit environments. This is due to a mirror like layer in the back of the eye called the tapetum lucidum (the same found in cats).
- Sharks have ears
- Located within a small opening on each side of their head. Sound travels faster in water, and sharks rely on sound heavily.
- Sharks can detect electricity
- Sharks have electroreceptor organs called ‘ampullae of Lorenzini’, and they use this to detect electromagnetic fields which all living creatures emit.
- Most sharks live 20-30 years
- Maturing slowly and reaching a reproductive age anywhere from 12 to 15 years
- Sharks are a k-selected species
- This means they produce a small number of larger, more developed young, as opposed to a mass number of under developed young.