Did you know that there are over 400 species of Sharks? That’s a lot of sharks roaming our oceans! But did you also know that about less than 5% are seen by humans, making that an astonishing 95% of sharks that go unseen. Shark awareness day couldn’t come at a better time; with Discovery Channel’s Shark Week fast approaching it seems they’re becoming more misunderstood with every episode.
Sharks are also extremely smart, they have an incredible sense of smell along with receptors in their nose that are filled with a jelly-like substance, this substance helps them use electro-magnetic sensory to find prey, especially when they’re in distress. These receptors compensate for their vision which is predominantly black and white. Each shark species is unique; they live in their own zone of the ocean, acclimated to that habitat. Some sharks roam the oceans constantly in search of new grounds for nursing, breeding, and feeding, while other sharks move along the ocean floor staying close to their claimed territory.
Think sharks don’t contribute to the ecosystem? Well without sharks, the entire marine ecosystem would fall apart. With their position atop the food chain, sharks hold a vital role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Some species of sharks are attracted to injured fish and other animals, ones that flail around in the water making distress noises. When a shark finds these injured fish as their prey, they’re helping stop diseases from spreading in a particular species. Sharks also regulate populations, making sure they don’t become too large, this would throw off the marine ecosystem.
Most people think sharks don’t have many, if any predators, but according to the number of sharks humans kill per year, we are considered their largest predators. Per year, sharks kill an average of over 10 people globally. Yet per hour humans kill an average of over 11,000 sharks. People kill sharks for many reasons such as a delicacy called shark fin soup, their liver oil, or sport fishing.
For Shark Awareness day, we want to emphasize the importance of education when it comes to protecting these prehistoric marvels. The shark species is over 450 Million years old! Shark Awareness day is a time to take a deeper look into the behavior, history, and various species of sharks. This differs from the aggressive and terrifying depiction they get every other day of the year, with an increase in the summer months due to the influx of beachgoers and Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. Sharks have been wrongly portrayed in movies and these filmmakers have placed fear inside millions of people.
It is important to know that sharks do not hunt for humans. We are not a part of their diet, and their diet though minimal, is pretty strict. It is also important to remember the ocean is their home and polluting and overfishing harms the food chain and the delicate ecosystem. So on Friday July 14th, take a moment to appreciate these magnificent prehistoric wonders. A great way to educate yourself is to come visit the aquarium and hear from our shark specialists, or get up-close and personal by having fun in our touch tanks with our knowledgeable guides. Some sharks we have here at the aquarium are white spotted bamboo sharks, brown banded bamboo sharks, epaulette sharks, sand tiger sharks, and nurse sharks.
Adam Cilley | January 11th, 2018