Shark Facts - Did you know?
- Sharks are fish belonging to a group called Elasmobranchs, including skates and rays, which have existed over 400 million years.
- Elasmobranchs are different from other fish because they have skeletons made out of cartilage (not bone like other fish) and gill slits (other fish have a cover over their gills called an operculum).
- There are around 450 different species of sharks with more still being discovered.
- The largest shark is the Whale Shark reaching up to 32 ft. The smallest is the Dwarf Lantern Shark, which full grown is around 8 in.
- Sharks can live anywhere from 15 to 100 years old depending on the species.
- Sharks have a few hundred teeth in their mouth at any given time. Since they are keen predators they actively replace old teeth with new ones. It is estimated that a shark may go through around 35,000 teeth in their lifetime.
- Different species of sharks will have different shaped teeth depending on what they eat. Pointy teeth help sharks like the Mako catch fast moving fish in the open ocean, jagged serrations help the tiger cut as it bites through hard shells like sea turtles, and nurse sharks have small backward facing hooked teeth to help grip onto their prey.
- Not only do sharks have teeth in their mouth, but they have teeth-like scales all over their skin! These scales, called dermal denticles cover the shark’s body and can feel like sharp rough sand paper to our biologists if handled without protection.
- Any animal with a mouth can bite and sharks are no exception. Sharks, being carnivorous will sometimes investigate humans they might encounter. Since the shark has no instinct of what a human is, they must do what all animals would when encountering possible new prey… taste it. However, since sharks are not hunting for people, the vast majority of attacks are a single bite.
- The ocean is a wild habitat, no matter where you are. But there are things you can do to minimize risks. Swim in the guarded area, and swim with a buddy. Daytime is ideal as sharks and other predator mainly hunt at dawn and dusk. Clear water is the best. If the water is murky with low visibility a shark is more likely to confuse a human with a prey item.