Sharks: Fact or Fiction?
Sharks do not have a single bone in their body.
Fact! Shark skeletons are made up completely of cartilage, a very flexible protein which can also be found in the noses and ears of humans. Sharks require lightweight cartilage structures for flexibility in hunting prey and cruising over long distances without being weighed down by bones.
For every human killed by a shark, millions of sharks are killed by humans.
Fact! In 2012, just 11 people worldwide died from injuries from shark attacks. The annual kill count on sharks worldwide, however, more than 70 million. That means that in 2012 up to 6,363,636 sharks were killed for every human death caused by a shark.
All sharks are dangerous predators.
Fiction! With literally hundreds of species, sharks come in a much greater variety than just the great whites you see featured in movies or TV. The whale shark and the basking shark for instance, the two largest sharks in the ocean, both feed off of plankton and fish eggs. Many sharks are more curious than they are aggressive, and will only coast by a swimmer to look without the swimmer even knowing they were there!
Shark fin soup contains valuable medicinal properties and is highly nutritious.
Fiction! Shark meat contains no nutritional value nor does it have any beneficial effects on one’s health. In fact, it is more likely that you will get mercury poisoning from shark fin soup than receive any benefits to your health.
Sharks actively hunt humans.
Fiction! The majority of shark attacks are cases of mistaken identity or curiosity-gone-wrong, where the shark was investigating what was in front of it due to murky conditions. Most sharks will let go of a human once they have bitten down and realized they were not a usual food source.
Sharks serve no real purpose.
Fiction! Like most top predators, sharks play a vital role to the ocean ecosystem. Wounded, sick, or otherwise dying animals are eaten by sharks, and prey populations would skyrocket out of control without sharks to keep them in check.
Sharks can be intimidated.
Fact! Many apex predators are used to having their prey run away from them rather than standing their ground and fighting back. If confronted, many sharks will choose to swim away rather than struggle against something willing to fight back, using valuable energy needed for survival.
Sharks are just mindless eating machines.
Fiction! Studies have shown that the majority of sharks are actually quite smart, rivaling dolphins and other sea mammals in intelligence. Sharks can map trips spanning thousands of miles, set an ambush for unwary prey, and even communicate with one another. Also, sharks do not have to constantly eat to survive: one meal can fill a shark for several months.
Size: The spined pygmy shark, a deep-sea shark, is one of the smallest at only about 7-8 inches, while the whale shark is the largest shark, and fish, at about 50 feet in length.
Lifespan: Although lifespan varies by shark species, most sharks are long-lived and generally tend to live for 20-30 years. Species like the spiny dogfish and the whale shark are believed to live for over 100 years!