Shark Week is wrapping up, so let’s learn about and celebrate these awesome creatures! Sharks are incredibly important to the ocean ecosystem, but are often depicted as monsters, although they are not that much different from other types of fish. The world shark population is quickly declining (mostly due to pollution and poaching), which is potentially devastating to the health of our oceans.
Here are some amazing facts about sharks:
As apex predators (top of the food web) sharks keep the ocean species in balance and help maintain diverse life in coral reefs.
Scientists age sharks by counting the rings on their vertebrae. Shark back bone pairs are counted like rings on a tree and then scientists assign an age to the shark based on the count. Thus, if the vertebrae has 10 band pairs, it is assumed to be 10 years old. Recent studies, however, have shown that this assumption is not always correct. Researchers must therefore study each species and size class to determine how often the bone pairs grow.
Not all sharks have the same teeth. Mako sharks have very pointed teeth, while Great White sharks have triangular, serrated (knife-like) teeth. Each type of shark leaves unique bite marks on their prey. Sandbar sharks will have around 35,000 teeth over the course of their lifetime!
Different shark species reproduce in different ways. Some are oviparous (egg-laying) and others viviparous (live-bearing). Oviparous species lay eggs that develop and hatch outside the mother's body with no parental care after the eggs are laid.
Whale shark spot patterns are each as unique as a fingerprint. Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the ocean. They can grow to 40 feet and weigh as much as 40 tons!
Learn more! Check out these books about sharks:
What do you think about sharks: scary monsters or awesome big fish? Drop a comment!