7 Awesome Facts You Didn’t Know About Sharks

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on August 9, 2013.

If you watch any amount of television, you probably know that this week is ”Shark Week” on the Discovery Network.

This annual televised celebration of sharks started way back in 1987, and the program was originally developed to raise awareness and respect for sharks. Now broadcast in over 72 countries, Shark Week has succumbed to the reality TV scourge that permeates nearly every known network. Instead of showing real marine biologists and conservationists working to understand and protect sharks, the week-long television festival is rife with shows solely focused on their predatory nature — even though some of these purported behaviors don’t actually exist.

Don’t believe me? Check out this “Megalodon documentary” that was complete fiction.

But don’t despair just yet. We know that sharks are a grossly misunderstood yet vital element of marine ecosystems. In the true spirit of the original Shark Week, we present seven awesome and shocking facts you didn’t know about these incredible creatures:

1. Sharks have a sixth sense.

Sharks have the unique ability to detect something that humans can’t: electrical fields. Special organs in their snouts enable sharks to pick up on the tiny electrical pulses emitted from the muscle movements or beating hearts of potential prey.

2. Sharks almost never get sick.

“Shark tissue appears to have anticoagulant and antibacterial properties. Scientists are studying it in hopes of finding treatments for a number of medical conditions, including viruses, cystic fibrosis and some forms of cancer,” explains Conservation International.

3. Female sharks don’t need males to reproduce.

Through a phenomenon called parthenogenesis, female sharks can produce offspring without any help from males. The egg essentially fertilizes itself!

4. Sharks don’t hunt humans.

Most “attacks” on humans are inquisitive bites or mistakes due to poor water visibility. And this is why there are so many more bites than fatalities. Besides, humans likely taste as bad as the food we eat — blech!

5. Sharks are master predators.

Lantern sharks can glow to disguise themselves in the deep ocean. They “[emit] the same amount of light as that which is filtering down from above; this way, they don’t create a ‘shadow,’” reports Douglas Main of Live Science. ”Velvet belly lantern sharks have glowing spines that may be used to ward off predators.”

6. Sharks help keep the carbon cycle in motion.

“By feeding on dead matter that collects on the seafloor, scavengers like deep-sea sharks, hagfish and starfish not only keep themselves alive, they also help to move carbon through the ocean,” Conservation International explains

7. Humans kill a staggering number of sharks every year.

Some scientists estimate that for every one person killed by a shark, 25 million sharks are killed by people. Check out this infographic for a stunning visualization of this ratio.

Most of these deaths are due to the gruesome and pointless act of shark finning, as well as incidental “bycatch” in fishing equipment. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), there are 201 sharks on the “Red List” of endangered species.

To lose many more of these vital ocean predators would severely alter the balance of our marine ecosystems. Only by continuing to fight for stronger protections and shark finning bans will we be able to save these fierce yet graceful animals.

Photo Credit: David Clode/Unsplash

205 comments

bob P
bob Petermann14 days ago

We do need to clean up our waters, Ban shark fin soup and the importation of shark fins now.

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Crystal G
Crystal G14 days ago

So eating food keeps us safe from sharks? If we didn't, we'd be in danger? Kind of a stupid article.

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Ruth S
Ruth S18 days ago

Thanks.

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Leo Custer
Leo Custer18 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Georgina Elizab M

tyfs

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Arlene C
Arlene C18 days ago

Merci Beth

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Amanda M
Amanda M20 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Amanda M
Amanda M20 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Margie F
Margie FOURIE20 days ago

Can you please ban Xupedujuso Loketa?

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Margie F
Margie FOURIE20 days ago

I like sharks in their own environment.

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