Jun 3

Sharks – love them or fear them, they’re certainly impressive. Perfectly adapted to life in the water, with extraordinary hunting skills, sharks are a surprisingly diverse group of species.

Did you know? Shark teeth are embedded in their gums, not fixed to the jaw like ours are. This enables them to be constantly replaced throughout a shark’s life. Some sharks get through over 20,000 teeth in a lifetime. That’s a lot of money from the tooth fairy!

Rethink the Shark

Have a look at this brilliant Wildscreen Panda Award winning short film, Rethink the Shark. Does it change your opinion of sharks?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k06shnNI8vY&feature=player_detailpage

Still not convinced that sharks are great? Read on and find out more about these amazing animals…

Nurse shark

Photo of a nurse shark on reef

Nurse shark on reef

Anything called the ‘hoover of the ocean floor’ can’t be that scary, right? Nurse sharks definitely aren’t the fearsome fish we associate with the word ‘shark’. They feed by cupping their mouth over a crevice and expanding their throat, which creates a vacuum that sucks prey out of their hiding place. Clever – maximum reward for minimum effort!

Brownbanded bamboo shark

Photo of a juvenile brownbanded bamboo shark

Juvenile brownbanded bamboo shark

Check out those stripes! With leg-like pectoral fins, the brownbanded bamboo shark is ideally adapted for clambering over reefs and into crevices to hunt out prey. Uniquely, the brownbanded bamboo shark can survive a complete tidal cycle out of the water, enabling it to forage in shallow tidal pools. 

Frilled shark

Photo of a frilled shark swimming

Frilled shark swimming

What a bizarre shark! Snake-like and over a metre long, the frilled shark looks like something left over from the time of the dinosaurs. It is one of the most primitive species of living shark, with a large mouth and rows of sharp, three-pronged teeth. Frilled sharks may eat prey over one and a half times their own length!

Megamouth shark

Photo of a megamouth shark

Megamouth shark

One of the most mysterious and least understood of all the sharks. Since its discovery in 1976, the megamouth shark has only ever been seen 17 times. Megamouth sharks definitely live up to their name – they have a huge mouth with over 50 rows of small, hooked teeth. How do they feed? What do they eat? Scientists just don’t know!

Bull shark

Photo of a bull shark swimming

Bull shark swimming

Notoriously ferocious, the bull shark is a poorly understood species. Most famous for its ability to survive in both freshwater and saltwater, bull sharks have been found in unexpected places – the foothills of the Peruvian Andes, the Amazon River and Lake Nicaragua. Pretty impressive for a marine animal!

Basking shark

Photo of a basking shark feeding

Basking shark feeding

I have a soft spot for basking sharks. See how ridiculous they look, swimming along with their huge mouth open! Anything so huge – over 8 metres – and so comical is always a winner for me. Although they may be large, basking sharks are gentle giants, filter feeding on plankton through their massive gills.

Tasselled wobbegong

Photo of a tasselled wobbegong

Tasselled wobbegong

Looking more like a rug on the sea floor than a shark, the tasselled wobbegong is well camouflaged amongst coral. The scientific name means “well fringed nose with shaggy beard” – a perfect description. The ‘beard’ looks like tasty morsels of food, which attracts the wobbegong’s prey.

Great hammerhead shark

Photo of a great hammerhead shark

Great hammerhead shark

Easily identified by its ‘hammer’ and large size, the great hammerhead catches prey by detecting weak electric fields produced by all living organisms. What is the hammer for? Nobody knows but one theory is that the hammer increases the size of sensory organs which detect electro-chemical signals, helping the shark to catch its prey.

Whale shark

Photo of a whale shark feeding

Whale shark feeding, diver swimming alongside

An ocean giant, the whale shark can reach over 12 metres in length. Like the basking shark, the whale shark is docile and unthreatening, despite its huge size. The largest fish in the world definitely deserves its place in my top 10!

Great white shark

Photo of a great white shark

Great white shark

What do you think of when you hear ‘great white shark’? Man-eating? Jaws? Its reputation as an aggressive man-eater has been hugely exaggerated. The great white shark is truly amazing – what a pinnacle of evolution! Perfectly adapted to its role as an apex predator in the ocean, the great white shark is streamlined, fast and agile. Despite worldwide notoriety, very little is known about the ecology and behaviour of the great white shark, making this enigmatic predator all the more intriguing.

Have I convinced you that sharks are brilliant? Which shark would be number one in your top ten?

Ruth Hendry, ARKive Media Researcher

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