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Sharks! A Look At the Giants of the Sea

Sharks at Odysea Aquarium

By Shana Fischer

The movie, “Jaws”, about a shark with a taste for blood terrified millions of moviegoers. It also sparked a fascination with these giant creatures of the sea. Throughout the years, our interest in sharks has only grown thanks to the widely popular television series, “Shark Week” and the campy made-for-television film, “Sharknado”.

Sharks are some of the oldest species in the world. Evidence exists of the first primitive sharks who lived 425 million years ago. Modern-day sharks have been around for about 100 million years.

There are more than 500 species of sharks and they range from smaller types who measure about 6 inches long to larger types that can reach 40 feet in length.

Sharks are carnivores eating a diet of fish and squid, and other marine mammals. The average shark will lose 30,000 teeth during its lifetime. Their teeth are embedded in their gums and not connected to their jaws which is why they lose so many. Depending on their diet, sharks can have smooth, flattened teeth to crush through shells or if mammals are on the menu, pointed teeth so they can tear or rip. Some sharks have serrated teeth so they can saw through their meal.

Sharks have a wonderful sense of smell, they can use their olfactory sense to figure out the direction of prey or to find other sharks nearby. Scientists say some sharks have such a strong sense of smell they can detect one part per million of blood in the water… that’s like finding a single drop of blood in 50 barrels of water!

Sharks are an important part of our ecosystem. They are needed to help curb the overpopulation of other fish and animals. By eating these fish, algae and other plants are able to grow and coral reefs can thrive.

Generally, most sharks live about 30 years. They tend to be solitary, but some do travel in pairs and others, like tiger sharks, can hang out with up to five other sharks and live and hunt together.

Contrary to what we see on TV and in movies, sharks are not interested in attacking humans. In fact, you’re more likely to be killed by a falling coconut than you are by a shark.

Sharks have long been hunted for their meat as well as their fins which are erroneously believed to cure cancer or help with other ailments. Each year, 14 billion tons of garbage are dumped into our oceans and some of this garbage gets eaten by sharks and can severely hurt or even kill them. Many states have outlawed the sale of shark fin soup or other products containing shark.

If you want to learn more about sharks, check out OdySea Aquarium located in Scottsdale, Arizona. You can discover more about these amazing creatures in their Sharks of the Deep exhibition. Travel down the first-of-its-kind fully enclosed escalator that takes you further and further into the depths of the “ocean”. Along the way check out the magnificent sea creatures including eight species of shark. Or check out their “live shark cam” which is like having the world’s coolest fish tank at your desk!