Aug 2

This week the Discovery Channel is holding ‘Shark Week’, showing programmes all about some of the world’s most feared creatures.

Diving into ARKive we have come up with some of our favourite examples of these elusive and often endangered animals. 

Open wide!

Whale shark feeding

Whale shark feeding

Listed at the top of the Discovery Channel’s 20 Largest Sharks, the whale shark is indeed the most gigantic of the lot. Growing up to a colossal 12 metres in length, it is the largest fish species in existence. Despite its size, however, the enormous whale shark is known to be docile, only dining on plankton and small fish by filter feeding. 

The amazing hammerhead

Great hammerhead, view from below

Great hammerhead viewed from below

One of the better known shark species, the great hammerhead is a ferocious predator, feeding on stingrays, crabs, squid, and a variety of other animals. Despite this, it is listed as Endangered, largely due to capture for shark fin soup. There is an urgent need for conservation efforts to try and save this species. 

Unusual shark species

Spotted wobbegong

Spotted wobbegong

As one of Discovery’s Top 10 Quirkiest Sharks, the spotted wobbegong hardly looks like a shark at all. A bottom dwelling shark, this animal is most active at night, searching for prey to sneak up on. This stealthy species has big teeth and powerful jaws, so probably best not to get too close! 

Mighty great white

Great white shark

Great white shark

Of course, a lot of the programmes in ‘Shark Week’ are about the most feared predator of the sea, the great white shark. An incredible species, they have an acute sense of smell and are able to sense electric fields through sensors in their snout. Although a popular species, little is known about the behaviour of the great white and due to its deadly reputation, conservation efforts can be hard to initiate. 

Getting a bad reputation in the press

Sadly, this fearsome image of sharks seems to have been exaggerated by the media. Despite many being well adapted predators, on average there were less than 5 fatal human attacks a year by sharks in the last decade. If you compare this to the estimated 73 million sharks killed every year by humans, it is clear to see that the deadly, man-eating perception of sharks is more than slightly skewed.

Thankfully, many conservation efforts are under way. An example is the island nation of Palau turning 230,000 square miles of ocean in its territorial waters into a protected shark sanctuary.

Hopefully Discovery’s shark week will help further raise awareness about these amazing creatures, and the need to protect them.

Explore more images and videos of sharks on ARKive.

Let us know what your favourite species of sharks are! 

Rebecca Taylor, ARKive Media Researcher

  • Leigh (August 2nd, 2011 at 9:34 pm):

    I’ve always loved the wobbegong, but have recently become rather fascinated by the cookie-cutter and goblin sharks. If I had to choose only one to see, though, it would be the whale shark. Just stunning.

  • Marry Emma (August 2nd, 2011 at 11:14 pm):

    Very Interesting!! We have to protect all the animals! We cannot
    live without them!!

  • LEX B (August 3rd, 2011 at 3:15 am):

    Unfortunately anyone watching shark week these days can’t fail to notice that Shark Week itself mostly just exaggerates the fearsome image of sharks. 10 years ago it used to show interesting and informative shows, nowadays the only interesting and informative shows that make it were filmed 10 years ago, the rest is sensationalist drivvel.