Over the years, sharks have gotten a bad rap as bloodthirsty man-eaters. We challenge you to take a second look at these magnificent creatures and to fight fear with facts. Here are five reasons to re-think the shark—even the great white, a species that has starred in our horror movies and collective nightmares for decades. It’s time for us to embrace the fact that there’s far more to sharks than their bite.
The smallest shark, a dwarf lantern shark, is rarely seen and little-known.
Credit: © Chip Clark/Smithsonian Institution
Sharks have a long and impressive lineage. Ancient sharks were cruising the ocean 400 million years ago--long before dinosaurs roamed on land. Relatives of the great white like the giant megatooth evolved more than 20 million years ago. Meet some of the other imposing top predators from ages past.
Every year, humans kill an estimated 70 million sharks. The threats
we pose are many. By-catch:
the accidental killing of sharks in fishing gear intended for other species. Illegal poaching and hunting: selling shark fins for soup and sportfishing for shark-jaw trophies. Nets: placed along coastlines to keep sharks away from beaches. It turns out that sharks have more reason to fear humans than the other way around. That’s why even shark attack survivors have started speaking up in defense of sharks
3. Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself
It’s not just comparisons to other traumatic events that can help put the danger of shark attacks in perspective. Things we encounter in everyday life and common activities
often pose much greater danger than sharks. For example, you are much more likely to be killed by a car or bicycle accident, a fall, a mishap with fireworks, or even a bad case of the flu than by a shark attack.
5. King of the Food Chain
Sharks have six highly refined senses:
smell, hearing, touch, taste, sight, and electromagnetism. These finely honed senses, along with a sleek, torpedo-shaped body, make most sharks highly skilled hunters. They often serve as top predators—keeping populations of prey species in check. Removing them in large numbers can have ripple effects that throw entire ecosystems out of balance.