Sharks. They’re one of the world’s most misunderstood creatures, and are capable of being both fascinating and terrorizing to humans. And, hey, with movies like Jaws and the recently-popular Sharknado, it’s no wonder these guys get a pretty bad rap. Lucky for us (and you!), we have a team of Adventure Aquarium Biologists standing by to help us better understand sharks and debunk (or verify!) some of the most common and crazy rumors out there!
1. Sharks have poor vision: False!
Sharks can see very well. Their eyes can even distinguish color! Sharks’ eyes employ a lens that’s up to seven times as powerful as a human’s. Guess that explains why we’ve never seen a shark wearing glasses.
2. Sharks can detect a single drop of blood in the ocean: False!
Sharks may have great senses, but a shark’s sense of smell is often highly exaggerated in film and media. Some sharks can detect blood at one part per million, but let’s not forget how big the ocean really is. So, have no fear. If you happen to cut your foot on a shell while jumping some waves, no one will be immediately cueing the iconic Jaws theme song.
3. Sharks don’t blink: Fact!
Sharks have upper and lower eyelids, but the lids do not move, nor do they close over the eye. Sharks may protect their eyes when biting prey using a third eyelid called the nictitating membrane. Talk about a serious staring contest!
4. Sharks can’t communicate: False!
Just like humans, sharks communicate through body language. For example, a shark may be saying “back off” when it hunches its back. Lowering the pectoral fins (two wing fins in the front), exaggerated movements, such as “zig-zaggy” swimming, quick turns, are also signs that a shark wants to be left alone. Now if only they could learn how to send a text.
5. Sharks are attracted to the color yellow: Kind of true, kind of false.
Does this color bring out my eyes? Well… sharks may not specifically be partial to the color yellow, but they are attracted to anything in the water that is a high color contrast. Minimizing brightly colored or patterned equipment may help reduce the level of contrast in the water.
6. Sharks have no bones: Fact!
The skeleton of a shark consists of cartilage tissue. We have cartilage in our ears and nose. Sharks may have tough skin but their cartilaginous skeletons leave them vulnerable to blunt force trauma. Cartilage allows them to turn, bend or twist making them agile in the water.
7. Sharks need to eat all of the time: False!
Sharks are opportunistic predators, they eat when they find food, and eat as much as they can since it could be weeks before they find another meal. On average, a shark may eat about 2% of its body weight per day, which is slightly less than what a human consumes. A Great White shark can go without eating for 3 months, and some sharks can live for a year without eating, by surviving on the oil stored in their livers. That’s a pretty serious diet.
8. Sharks continuously grow new teeth: Fact!
Sharks replace their teeth up to 50,000 times in a lifetime. Imagine all of that Tooth Fairy money!
9. Sharks are unintelligent: False!
Sharks have some of the largest brains among all fish, with brain-to-body ratios similar to mammals and birds. Sharks are even capable of learning a conditioned response faster than a cat or rabbit. AAQ’s sharks are conditioned (trained) to eat at a certain area of the exhibit. We feed each species in a different area.
10. Sharks have no predators: False!
We might think sharks are the biggest, baddest, bullies of the sea, but other predators like killer whales have been known to prey on sharks. Sometimes sharks even eat other sharks. However, sharks most dangerous predators are humans. Unfortunately, millions of sharks are killed for their fins every year.
Sharks need to be revered, not feared. The goal of programs like Adventure Aquarium’s Shark Week: LIVE! is to educate guests about the ocean’s most amazing animals. Join in on the fun now through August 11.