Sharks 101

Whether you admit it or not, everyone is at least a bit afraid of sharks. But as intimidating as they are, sharks are fascinating animals. For example, all sharks have a sixth sense called electroreception that allows them to detect the electrical currents of other organisms and hunt very precisely. But there are over five hundred known species of sharks in our oceans, and each have unique characteristics. Below are facts about Great Whites, Tiger Sharks, and Whale Sharks.

Great White sharks tend to be about 21 feet long, weigh up to 7,000 pounds, and have about 3,000 triangular, serrated teeth, so it’s no wonder they have such a bad reputation- they’re massive! These sharks are carnivores and they eat just about everything in the sea- fish, seals, sometimes even whales. That said, they rarely go after humans. There have only been about 250 unprovoked attacks on humans in the last 7 years. Great Whites give birth to live pups who are about one foot long.

Another interesting fact about Great Whites is their camouflage method called ‘counter shading.’ The sharks have dark colored backs and light colored stomachs. Because of this, a seal or fish above the shark sees it as the ocean floor below, but an animal below the shark sees it as the light at the surface of the water. This greatly aids the sharks in hunting because their prey can rarely see them even though they’re so large.

The Tiger Shark is another unique species. Tiger Sharks have been nicknamed ‘the wastebasket of the sea,’ because they will eat just about anything they can swallow- turtles, car tires, license plates, you name it. This makes them a bit more of a threat toward humans. Usually, a Great White will give up on a human after the first bite, but Tiger Sharks often continue attacking. However attacks from Tiger Sharks are still very rare. Tiger Sharks are the fourth largest species of shark- about 14 feet and 1,400 pounds. Their strong teeth and jaws are able to crack turtle shells, and they are found in warm, tropical, coastal areas.

Next is the Whale Shark. If you thought the Great White seemed huge, you’ll be shocked by this guy’s size. Whale Sharks are the largest known fish, measuring around 25 feet, and weighing 15-20 tons. Although their size may be scary, Whale Sharks don’t pose any threat to us. They are very gentle fish and sometimes swim alongside divers. They eat tiny plankton and fish and take in about 1,500 gallons of water each hour. Like a human’s finger print, each of these sharks has its own unique pattern of markings. Whale Sharks are usually pretty solitary, and live around 70 years.

Sadly, around 28% of shark species are endangered, and around 100 million sharks are killed annually. Whale Sharks and Great Whites are the top two most endangered species of shark. Human fishing, hunting and pollution are big reasons for this. For ways to help these animals click here.

10 Surprising Animal Facts

Scientists think that there are about 1-2 million animal species on Earth. That’s 1-2 million different behavioral habits, mating patterns, diets, and so much more. We tend to focus only on one of those species, ourselves, and forget that we’re sharing the Earth with so many interesting creatures. Here are 10 random animal facts you may find surprising.

1. There is a type of jellyfish that, when threatened, can regenerate its cells, meaning that it can potentially live forever. They only gain this ability after they reach sexual maturity, but its a pretty amazing survival mechanism. When the tiny jellyfish is threatened, it attaches to something solid, turns into a kind of blob, and begins to regenerate its cells. Scientists are studying these “immortal jellyfish” hoping that, just maybe, humans can try to adopt their skills.

2. 10 million more sharks are killed by humans than humans killed by sharks. Yep, you read that right. Sharks are among humans’ greatest fears, but in reality it’s the sharks that should be afraid of us . Only 10 humans are killed by sharks each year, and 100 million sharks are killed by humans every year due to over fishing and pollution.

3. Baby goats pick up “accents” and vocal patterns from their family. Goats don’t have a ‘language’, but they do adopt noise patterns from the goats around them that differ from other goats.

4. Horses use their eyes and ears to communicate with one another through facial expressions.

5. Polar bears have black skin. Their noses are black, so it makes sense, but its pretty weird to picture a shaven black polar bear. Their thick, black skin helps keep polar bears warm, insulating them and absorbing available sunlight.

6. Honeybees can flap their wings 200 times per second, which is why we here that ‘bzzzz’ noise. Actually, bees in general are pretty incredible. See this video for more.

7. Spider silk is crazy strong. One strand is thinner than human hair, but one strand is also five times stronger than a piece of steel the same width as it. Researchers say that a strand of spider’s silk 2 inches long could stop a Boeing 747.

8. Snails can sleep for three years. Jealous? Me too. In this form of hibernation, snails bury themselves in the ground when it gets cold and can stay there for three whole years.

9. Sloths take two weeks to digest their food.

10. Koalas have almost human fingerprints. In fact, they’re so indistinguishable that koalas and humans have been confused at crime scenes.

We forget how fascinating the animals around us are, but the truth is, they have some pretty amazing abilities. Now you know ten facts about ten animals you never knew you needed to know. Dinner table conversation starters? I think yes.

Does an Elephant Really Never Forget?

The notion that “an elephant never forgets” is a bit of an exaggeration, but it is true that elephants have quite impressive intellectual skills and many scientists regard elephants as being the smartest of animals.

The elephant has the largest brain of any land mammal, weighing in at about 10.5 pounds, so it isn’t totally surprising that elephants can and do remember a lot. Although scientists haven’t been able to do completely conclusive studies elephant memories, they have conducted various experiments that prove that elephants remember more than many mammals.

First of all, elephants are very good at recognizing members of their own herd so that they don’t get separated and mixed into other clans. In fact, elephants appear to have emotional attachments to their relatives. As seen in this clip from BBC, when one of an elephant’s relatives die, they mourn over its corpse, stroking it with their feet and trunks.

In addition to these apparent grieving behaviors, some elephants have been reported to cry. There is one case of an elephant who was in captivity for years and, upon being released, he began to cry. Scientists say they don’t know the psychological reasons behind it, but there were definitely tears from the elephant.

Also, elephants can remember locations well, such as sources of food and water, even if they haven’t visited for decades. Elephant clans with a high number of older members tend to live longer. This is because elephants can use their memory of the past to problem solve. For example, if an elephant survived a drought as a child, it may be able to sense a drought coming in the future and thus lead its family to reliable sources of water.

Perhaps the most astounding skill of the elephant is its ability to create art.

Scientists are still unsure whether elephants attach any meaning to their artwork, but regardless its pretty amazing that their trunks are dexterous enough to grasp and move the paintbrush, and that their brains are able to produce recognizable shapes on the canvas.

Unfortunately, elephants are a major target for poachers. When one elephant is poached, its decades worth of memories, its artistic abilities, and its incredible mental capacity goes with it. Because of poaching, elephants are now considered endangered species. This is even more sad because elephants, although they can be threatening and protective, are among the gentlest of creatures. Despite their massive size, scientists have found that elephants won’t hurt tiny animals like flies or mice.

So although elephants may notĀ neverĀ forget, they certainly have very impressive cognitive abilities, like compassion, grief, memory, and art. Scientists are still researching elephants’ skills, and it will be interesting to see what they discover.