Whether you love sharks or not, there is no denying these incredible animals are awesome! To celebrate Shark Awareness Day on 14th July, we have 20 fascinating facts about sharks just for you. Gather your family, test your knowledge, have some fun and find out where you can go diving with sharks. Read on to find out more.
There are over 500 species of sharks.
Add rays to that list, which are closely related to sharks, and there are more than 1,000 species of sharks and rays in our oceans!
The largest species of shark grows up to 18 meters long.
Whale sharks are the largest species of shark and can grow up to 18 meters (60 feet) long. The next largest shark species include basking sharks, megamouth sharks, tiger sharks and great white sharks.
The smallest shark species is smaller than a human hand!
The dwarf lantern shark is the smallest shark and can fit in the palm of your hand. These tiny sharks are rarely seen, live in the deep ocean and grow to a maximum length of 8 inches.
Sharks are vital for healthy oceans.
Sharks play a vital role in keeping our oceans healthy. They do this by preying on sick and old marine life, which helps to prevent the spread of disease and improving the gene pool.
They also help make oceans more resilient to climate change and their poop brings crucial nutrients up to the surface of the oceans – which helps phytoplankton grow. Why does phytoplankton matter? It produces the oxygen that we breathe!
Some sharks get through more than 20,000 teeth in their lifetimes.
Great white sharks have around five rows of teeth and may have up to 300 teeth at any one time! These teeth are continually replaced, and great white sharks can get through more than 20,000 teeth in their lifetimes.
Some sharks glow in the dark.
Researchers recently discovered three species of shark off New Zealand that glow in the dark. These deep-sea sharks’ bioluminescence is thought to help them find food, attract a mate and hide from predators below – by blending in with the pale light above.
Sharks can travel thousands of miles each year.
Some shark species are highly migratory and make long migrations each year between different feeding grounds. The longest recorded whale shark migration was a staggering 12,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean, from near Panama to an area by the Philippines.
Sharks are found in almost every ocean habitat.
Sharks can be found at tropical coral reefs, in the deep dark ocean, in the open ocean and even under Arctic ice.
You can swim with sharks at destinations around the world.
There are numerous countries where you can go swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, cage diving and freediving with sharks. Whether you want to encounter big iconic sharks, such as tiger sharks and great whites, or hang out with laid-back nurse and reef sharks, there is a shark diving destination for you.
Some sharks are warm blooded, just like us.
While most sharks are cold blooded, there are 5 species that are partially warm blooded: great white sharks, shortfin makos, longfin makos, porbeagles and salmon sharks. These sharks can raise their temperature above the water temperature, which helps them move faster when hunting.
Sharks have different personalities, just like us.
If you have spent a lot of time diving with sharks, you will have no doubt realized sharks have different personalities. Research has shown that some are confident and social, whilst others are more solitary and cautious. According to Australian research, some sharks are also shy and others do not handle stress well at all.
Sharks support our wellbeing.
Many divers list diving with sharks at the top of their wish list and rightly so! Encountering sharks when you are diving is magical and the highlight of any dive trip. As well as supporting our wellbeing by keeping the oceans healthy, sharks simply make our dives better!
Sharks have 2 more senses than humans.
As well as having the same 5 senses as humans (smell, taste, touch, eyesight and hearing), sharks have 2 additional senses. They can detect pressure changes in the water with their lateral line (a row of pores running all the way from snout to tail), which helps them hunt, hide from predators and navigate.
They also have an electroreception system, consisting of receptors (called ampullae of Lorenzini) on their head and snout. These amazing receptors can detect even the tiniest electrical field, such as those generated by muscle contractions in prey.
Sharks have existed in our oceans since before the dinosaurs
Sharks have been around in the oceans for over 400 million years! Sevengill sharks (also called cow sharks) are some of the most primitive sharks still alive today and first appeared in our oceans over 150 million years ago.
You can go diving with these curious sharks in South Africa’s Western Cape.
Are sharks man-eaters? No, they rarely attack humans.
According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), there were 57 unprovoked shark bites on humans worldwide in 2020, of which 10 were fatal.
There are some fascinating ISAF facts about shark attack risk compared to other risks such as lightning strikes, sand holes, bear attacks and home improvement equipment. All of which demonstrates how infrequently humans are bitten by sharks.
Sharks can live for more than 400 years.
Scientists found a Greenland shark that is around 400 years old, making it the longest-living vertebrate known to man. These enormous sharks are blind, incredibly slow swimmers and have a lifespan of approximately 250 to 510 years.
Around 100 million sharks are killed globally each year.
This is not a fun fact, but it is an important one to highlight. Around 100 million sharks are killed each year, mostly for the shark fin trade. Sharks are also killed for their meat and liver oil, and many are accidentally caught in fishing gear.
Three hundred species of sharks and rays are threatened with extinction.
Sharks and rays are disappearing from the oceans at an alarming rate, with oceanic shark and ray populations having declined by 71 per cent in the last fifty years. In total, more than 300 shark and ray species are now threatened with extinction.
But….it is not too late to save sharks!
People are working hard around the world to save sharks and you can be part of the solution too! Here is what can you do to help protect sharks:
Educate yourself and your friends about why sharks matter – sharing this article on social media is a great start.
Support shark conservation organizations.
Minimize your plastic use.
Avoid products containing shark ingredients, such as shark liver oil, shark cartilage and shark squalene.
Be a responsible diver by joining the SSI Blue Oceans movement.
Only consume sustainable seafood. There are sustainable seafood guides for many different countries online and they are very easy to use:
WWF worldwide seafood guides
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