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.