What do Sharks and the Volkswagen Beetle Have in Common?

Since 1988, Discovery Channel has aired a week-long series of feature television programs dedicated to sharks, usually running in July or August.

How do you work the VW Beetle into Shark Week? With a wireframe Beetle shark cage, of course! (Source: autoblog.com)

Volkswagen plans to take a big bite out of this year’s Shark Week, which airs on the Discovery Channel network August 12-16.

This is Volkswagen’s first year as presenting sponsor for the acclaimed programming event, which has carved out its place as must-see television for millions of viewers worldwide. The unique partnership unites the two across multiple platforms, with Volkswagen offering viewers a chance to dive deeper into the Shark Week experience.

“The biggest task for us was how to integrate VW and Shark Week without it just being tacked on,” said Scott Clark in a story on AdAge.com.

“We tried to find the similarities between sharks and the Beetle, but there weren’t a lot. Instead we took the fun and playfulness of the Beetle on land and brought it under water.”
So how do you work Beetle into Shark Week? With a wireframe Beetle shark cage, of course!

Volkswagen and Discovery Channel have worked closely together with marine biologist and shark expert, Luke Tipple, and his engineering team to create a one-of-a-kind “Volkswagen Beetle Shark Observation Cage” that will put viewers in the driver’s seat as it cruises along the ocean floor.

“Shark Week has a loyal and enthusiastic following of fans, and we’re thrilled to partner with Discovery Channel on this 25th anniversary special,” said Justin Osborne, general manager, marketing communications, Volkswagen of America, in a news release.

Building the wire Beetle shark from the ground up. (Source: autoevolution.com)

“We wanted the integration to be authentic and fit naturally with the Volkswagen brand, imprinting our signature style on Shark Week. The Beetle shark cage plays on the silhouettes of two of the most iconic images, the shark fin and the Volkswagen Beetle.”

It looks like how it sounds, metal bars looking just like the outline of the new Beetle turned into a shark cage, complete with wheels.

The design, construction, and submersion of the Beetle shark cage will be unveiled for viewers in a series of three, one-minute segments during Shark Week programming.

To play up the connection, the German automaker is offering “Shark Bites” video playlist and timeline photos for its Facebook page.

“Discovery Channel and Volkswagen share a great partnership and we are extremely proud to have them as a presenting sponsor for our 25th annual Shark Week,” said Scott Felestein, senior vice president, ad sales, Discovery Channel.

“We’re thrilled to offer Volkswagen the opportunity to showcase their innovation and creativity to our loyal Shark Week viewers, helping to increase awareness of their brand.”

Volkswagen’s social media sponsorship will enhance fans’ online Shark Week experience with new viewing choices including a simultaneous broadcasting application with audio syncing to the TV programming.

On-air elements include “Shark Bites,” vignettes that celebrate the greatest moments from past Shark Weeks, and “Sneak Peeks,” short segments began the week of July 17 that look ahead to this year’s 25th Shark Week.

Volkswagen is going to take a big bite out of the 25th anniversary of Shark Week. (Source: usatoday.com)

The Volkswagen Beetle Shark Observation Cage will certainly put viewers in the driver’s seat as it cruises along the ocean floor.

Details

Volkswagen of America, Inc.
Founded in 1955, Volkswagen of America, Inc. is headquartered in Herndon, Virginia. It is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG, headquartered in Wolfsburg, Germany.

Volkswagen’s operations in the United States include research and development, parts and vehicle processing, parts distribution centers, sales, marketing and service offices, financial service centers, and its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Website: vw.com

Discovery Communications
Discovery Communications is the world’s number one nonfiction media company reaching more than 1.7 billion cumulative subscribers in 209 countries and territories.

Discovery is dedicated to satisfying curiosity through more than 147 worldwide television networks, led by Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, and Science and Investigation Discovery.

Website: corporate.discovery.com

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

Part 1: Shark Week 2012

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Worth Pondering…
Sharks are as tough as those football fans who take their shirts off during games in Chicago in January, only more intelligent.
—Dave Barry

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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.

Details

Shark Week 2012

Dates: August 12-16, 2012

Website: dsc.discovery.com

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

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Most Dangerous Places in the U.S. for Shark Attacks

Tiger sharks, great white sharks, and bull sharks are behind most shark attacks on humans. These species live almost everywhere, are large enough that their prey is human size, are powerful enough to inflict a fatal bite, and are at the top of the food chain, so they aren’t afraid to attack.

Cocoa Beach looks calm now, but watch out for rip currents, lightning and sharks! (Credit: Glowimages/Getty Images)

Most shark attacks on humans occur within a few hundred yards of shore. That’s not because sharks stick to this part of the sea—it’s just where people are more likely to be. Of the 71 attacks that occurred in the world in 2007, 32 of them happened in Florida.

This list reveals that more people in the water will generally increase the chance of a shark attack.

Volusia County, Florida

Mile for mile, Volusia County, Florida, has more shark attacks than anywhere else in the world. Because the area boasts so many swimmers, these waters have seen 210 attacks since 1882, none of them fatal. Most of the attacks are just bites, though, so they don’t keep die-hard surfers and swimmers away.

Indeed, at New Smyrna Beach, located in Volusia, there are more incidents per square mile than on any other beach in the world. If you’ve been swimming at New Smyrna, you’ve probably been within 10 feet of a shark. These distinctions have earned New Smyrna Beach the nickname “Shark Attack Capital of the World.”

Brevard County, Florida

In the beaches that make up Brevard County, 90 attacks and one fatality have occurred since 1882.

Florida has a lot of shark attacks simply because it has a lot of tourists, and Brevard County is an easy hour-long drive for those already in the area to see Mickey and his friends at Disney World in Orlando. The county is home to the famed Space Coast, 70 miles of coastline named for the space center at Cape Canaveral. In addition to the Canaveral National Seashore, visitors can also enjoy Cocoa Beach and Melbourne Beach.

While the shark attacks are nothing to sneeze at, Brevard County is dangerous for a few other reasons as well. In 2008, Forbes named Brevard County beaches the most dangerous place for rip current drowning. In 2007, 10 people drowned because of the rip currents, a rate that’s higher than any other county in the United States.

Part of this coastline also falls into Florida’s “Lightning Alley,” an area that has the most lightning in the United States. So when you’re not worrying about sharks, worry about the forecast.

Northern California

A surfer at Stinson Beach, California. (Credit: Drew Kelly/Stone+/Getty Images)

About 90 miles of Northern California coastline between Point Reyes and Monterey Bay form one side of the Red Triangle; from those two points, lines extend to meet just past the Farallon Islands, to the west of San Francisco. These waters are home to lots of seals, which in turn attract lots of great white sharks.

But within the Red Triangle are many beaches that attract surfers, including Bolinas Beach and Stinson Beach. One tour guide operator deemed Stinson “the granddaddy of all shark beaches”.

While the Red Triangle is known for the great whites, the rest of the state’s coastline also holds the possibility of attack. Since 1926, 96 attacks and 7 fatalities have occurred in the state

South Carolina

Since 1837, 61 shark attacks and two fatalities have occurred in South Carolina. Though they occur all along the state’s coastline, the majority happen in Horry County, home to popular Myrtle Beach.

Surviving a Shark Attack

They're all smiles at South Carolina's Grand Strand, until the sharks show up. (Credit: Aladdin Color Inc/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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.

If you’re watching a circling shark and wondering if it’s about to attack its prey, here are the clues: The shark will hunch its back, lower its pectoral fins (the ones near its belly), and swim in zigzag motions.

Status of the Shark

As Shark Week concludes, let’s continue to spread the word about these wonderful creatures that have been around for far longer than we have.

Note: This is the first of a two-part series on sharks.

Part 1: Shark Week 2011

Details

More information on Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.

Worth Pondering…
For all at last return to the sea—to Oceanus, the ocean river, like the ever-flowing stream of time, the beginning and the end.

—Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us

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Shark Week 2011

Following are a few of the 100 shark facts that the Discovery Channel has listed on their web site, in keeping with Shark Week. Although we’re nearing the end of this year’s celebration, it is still worth highlighting this awareness campaign which was started in 1987. Today, 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.

Great White Shark at the surface with its mouth open showing its teeth. (Credit: Discovery Channel)

Skeleton Composition. Sharks’ skeletons are made entirely of cartilage, an elastic tissue that is much softer than bones. When a shark dies, salt from the ocean water completely dissolves its skeleton, leaving only the shark’s teeth behind.

Shark-inspired Technologies. A shark’s tooth-shaped scales, called denticles, allow it to move swiftly through the water without collecting barnacles and algae deposits on the skin. In 2005, engineers successfully mimicked the pattern of scales, creating a bacteria-resistant coating.

Shark 101. While the word “shark” may conjure up images of great whites and hammerheads, there are at least 350 shark species roaming the world’s oceans today. They vary in size and even shape, but they all tend to share similar body characteristics like large livers, flexible cartilaginous skeletons, and enhanced sensory systems.

You may think of sharks as ravenous, man-eating terrors of the sea, but in reality, only 20 of the more than 350 species of shark—a small minority—are known to attack humans.

Pygmies of the Sea. The pygmy sharks are among the tiniest shark species. They measure an average of 8 inches in length and they can make their own light, a phenomenon that’s especially helpful as pygmy sharks will dive more than a mile underwater to hunt.

Hammerhead sharks have disproportionately small mouths. They do most of their feeding along the bottom of the ocean. Their diet includes fish, squid, octopus, crustaceans, stingrays and even other sharks, including young hammerheads. (Credit: Discovery Channel)

Peripheral Vision. Sharks’ eyes are on the sides of their heads, so they have an amazingly wide sightline spanning nearly 360 degrees. Their panoramic view of the undersea world is inhibited only by two blind spots, one in front of the snout and the other directly behind the head.

Shark Life Span. The average shark lives to be 25 years old, but some can get as old as 100. They live so long because their chances of contracting a disease are low. Their skeleton is made up entirely of cartilage, which drastically lowers the likelihood of developing a tumor and strengthens their immunity.

Virgin Sharp Births. On occasion, a female shark can reproduce without any contact from a male, an act known as parthenogenesis. Scientists have only documented a couple of cases of parthenogenesis, but some suspect that just about any female shark can get pregnant on her own in the right circumstances.

Hammerhead Sharks. Hammerhead sharks may look like the victims of an evolutionary blunder, but their oddly shaped heads, called cephalofoils, really make them better hunters. The electrical sensors the sharks use to pinpoint their prey are spread out along the cephalofoil’s wide surface area, giving them better prey detection skills.

A gray reef shark at a feed station. (Credit: Discovery Channel)

Jaws. Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island were inspirations for the fictional town of Amity Island in Steven Spielberg’s 1975 thriller Jaws. The movie may have contributed to a decline in beach attendance in the late 1970s, even though great white sharks are said to be uncommon in northeastern waters.

Sharks Hunt like Serial Killers. Sharks hunt for food, not for sport, but they follow the same habits as serial killers. When on the hunt, both tend to stalk their victims, staying far enough away to be hidden, but close enough to strike when the opportunity arises.

Shark Myth. While many people fear sharks and think of them as one of the world’s most aggressive and deadly animals, the chances of dying from a shark attack fall well below the chances of being killed by hornets, wasps, bees, or dogs.

The Discovery Channel has also released an infographic giving some interesting details and facts about one of the most feared creatures on earth:

  • Sharks as we know them today have been around for 34,000,000 years
  • From 1999 to 2009, only about 5 people have been killed by sharks. Compare that to the 73 million sharks that are killed every year
  • From 1970 to 2005, the shark population in US waters has been cut down by 99 percent

Note: This is the first of a two-part series on sharks.

Part 2: Most Dangerous Places in the U.S. for Shark Attacks

Details

More information on Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.

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

Read More