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.
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
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
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
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