Shark Week 2012

Launched in 1988, Shark Week is gearing up to celebrate its 25th year anniversary, with new specials such as “Shark Week’s 25 Best Bites,” which will “look back at the greatest breaches, brushes, and bites with the ocean’s apex predator.”

The great white shark has both fascinated and frightened humans since its ominous presence first became known. (Source: Discovery Channel)

The Discovery Channel’s Shark Week celebration has received considerable attention in the United States and around the world, with various groups joining in to promote the plight of the shark.

This year’s Shark Week airs on the Discovery Channel network August 12-16.

Following are a few of the 100 shark facts that Discovery Channel has listed on their web site, in keeping with Shark Week.

Food Chain. Like lions on land, sharks are at the top of the food chain in the underwater jungle, and their eating habits affect the populations of all sea life below them. Without large sharks, octopus populations would jump, which would then decrease the number of lobsters, since they are one of the octopus’ favorite snacks.

Great White Sharks. The great white shark has both fascinated and frightened humans since its ominous presence first became known. These powerful fish can kill a person with a single bite, but not necessarily because they want to eat us. Studies suggest surfers and flailing swimmers remind the great white of other prey that it would normally go after. Nonetheless, each year one or more encounters with a great white usually are reported in the U.S., since the Great white shark habitats can range from depths of 4,000 feet to well above the surface.

Shark Senses. Sharks have quite a few more senses than humans. One comes from lateral line organs, which act like an internal barometer. When solid objects glide through the water, they create waves of pressure that a shark can feel with the sensitivity of a physical touch. By sensing these pressure waves, a shark can detect both the movement and direction of the object!

Great hammerhead sharks have large mouths and strange hydrofoil-like heads with bulbous eyes on either side. (Source: Discovery Channel)

Great Hammerhead Sharks. Great hammerhead sharks look like oceanic bulldozers, with their large mouths and strange hydrofoil-like heads that end with bulbous eyes on either side of the “hammer” tips. The unique head is actually an evolutionary adaptation that allows for superior water navigation. The largest of all hammerheads, weighing up to 1,012 pounds, they may be found close to the surface inshore as well as offshore to about 262 feet.

Inner Ears. You can’t see a shark’s ears, but that doesn’t stop it from being able to hear you from more than two football fields away. That’s because sharks only have inner ears, which they use to track the sound of their prey from lengths of more than 800 feet.

Atlantic Sharpnose Shark. Common to coastal waters, the Atlantic sharpnose shark selects its water depth based on the seasons. During the summer months, it usually is found at depths of 42 feet or less. When the upper layer chills over the winter, the sharks often retreat to 90 feet or more below the surface. Like a perfectly designed surfboard tip, its long, pointy snout matches the rest of the shark’s streamlined body. Sightings of the 4-foot shark are common off the coasts of South Carolina, Florida, and the Gulf of Mexico, where it may be found throughout the entire year, as some surfers have discovered.

The Atlantic sharpnose shark selects its water depth based on the seasons. (Source: Discovery Channel)

Sensory Genius. Underneath the fearsome killer instinct and razor-sharp teeth is an ultra-sensitive machine that nature has tuned to perfection. A shark’s body is bristling with sensory organs, listening, feeling, and responding to an underwater world humming with activity. Their famed ability to detect even a whiff of blood is just the beginning. Sharks have ears and eyes similar to humans, as well as electrical receptors that can detect a struggling fish or Earth’s magnetic field. A line of pressure-sensitive cells runs down each side of their body as well, letting them know if anything stirs in the waters nearby.

Shortfin Mako Sharks. Shortfin mako sharks have been called “the peregrine falcons of the shark world.” Their torpedo-like bodies and biochemistry make these the fastest of all sharks. Many attain speeds up to 22 miles per hour. One shortfin mako was even clocked swimming at 43 miles per hour. These sharks live in tropical and temperate offshore waters, most often from the surface to depths of 490 feet. They are found worldwide, most commonly in the western Atlantic from Argentina up to the Gulf of Mexico.

Shark Attacks. Of the average 30 to 50 shark attacks reported each year, only five to 10 prove to be fatal. So while being bitten by a shark is rare, dying from a shark bite is even rarer.

Bad Rap. Jaws wasn’t the first time sharks have been given a bad rap. The Greek historian Herodotus described how sharks defeated an entire Persian war fleet. Sharks “seized and devoured” the hapless Persian sailors after rocks on the shore of Athos “dashed the ships to pieces.” Herodotus did not seem too broken up by the event, but it began a trend of portraying sharks as ruthless, cold-blooded killers.


Shark Week 2012

Dates: August 12-16, 2012


Please Note: This is the first of a two-part series on Shark Week

Part 2: What do Sharks and the Volkswagen Beetle Have in Common?

Related Stories

Worth Pondering…

Mack the Knife

Oh, the shark, has pretty teeth, dear
and he shows them pearly white
Just a jackknife has MacHeath, babe
and he keeps it, out of sight
When that shark bites with his teeth, dear
scarlet billows start to spread
Just a gloved hand, has MacHeath, babe
and he never shows a single drop of red

—Berthold Brecht as sung by Bobby Darin

Leave a Reply