Jaws. Deep Blue sea. Sharknado. If there’s one marine species our culture takes great pleasure in mythologizing, demonizing, and turning into adorable baby plushies, it’s Sharks. These fish have headlined as many horror classics as National Geographic specials, yet despite our incurable obsession with the deepwater predator, our knowledge of them is often superficial, misguided, or just plain wrong. So, today we’re going to look at some of the coolest, weirdest, and most misunderstood Shark facts.
1. They Kill Fewer People a Year Than Coconuts.
If there’s one thing we know about sharks, it’s that they’re basically underwater killing machines, right? Otherwise, why would Samuel L. Jackson get eaten by a shark in the middle of an inspiring monologue about not getting eaten by a shark? It just doesn’t add up.
There’s definitely some truth to the idea of sharks being dangerous to the well being of unsuspecting humans. From 2006 to the present day, sharks have been responsible for brutally murdering numerous individuals, with deadly attacks occurring all over the Earth’s terrifying oceans. How many of them per year exactly? Five.
Yes, shockingly enough, it appears the media and Hollywood have a tendency to over-hype certain perils and serve it as fact to the mainstream public. Want some real shark facts? Coconuts kill about 150 people each year, a number that will take all of the worlds Sharks some 30 years to mirror.
But if not sharks, which animal should we fear? Well, mosquitoes are responsible for about 500,000 to a million deaths from Malaria each year. Dog breeds that are more prone to violence as a result of improper training statistically pose a much greater threat to humans than any shark species (not to mention only about 3% of shark species are known to attack humans anyway). Cows kill about 22 people each year in the US alone. Although hey, I’m at least willing to concede ‘Cownado’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
But at least it seems we’re taking all of the necessary precautions against the nonexistent shark threat, because:
2. Sharks’ Greatest Predator? Us.
We kill about 70 million sharks each year. Compare that to 64 human deaths caused by the Great White recorded from 1580 to 2007, and you’ll soon find sharks should be the ones making horror classics about us, instead of the other way round.
According to the World Conservation Union, between 20 and 30 percent of all sharks currently face extinction. Humans contribute to declining shark numbers in several worrisome ways, from commercial fish nets snatching a wide range of species by accident, to an increased demand for shark fins used in traditional remedies all throughout China. After the fin is removed, the still-living shark is usually discarded back into the water. There, it quickly sinks to the bottom of the ocean and is either suffocated or eaten by other fish.
But in their own realm, sharks truly are the unparalleled predator of the ocean arena. As a matter of fact:
3. They’re Basically Wolverines of the sea
Because what do we know about Wolverine anyway? He’s got giant retractable claws, superhuman regeneration powers and his arch-nemesis is Magneto. Check, check and… woah, check? Really?
Starting from the retractable claws: the Great White shark sports several rows of teeth concealed behind the main set. These teeth are not actually attached to the jaw itself and are able to retract, moving outward whenever the jaw opens and inward when it closes shut.
Moving on to exhibit B, sharks are known to effectively regenerate both its kidney tissue and teeth: an average shark is able to grow about 20000 replacement teeth within its lifetime! (also why you so rarely see them at the dentist office)
And finally, although further studies are going to be required, it does seem that the interaction of magnets with saltwater produces a weak magnetic field. The charge can significantly interfere with the shark’s electro-receptors, effectively repelling the predator. Check and mate, Hugh Jackman.
And in case you ever end up face to face with a shark, magnets are not even the weirdest way to get out of there alive. Because if you’re just crazy enough:
4. You Can K.O. a Shark by Petting it On the Nose
Let me stop you right there before you pack your scuba gear and GoPro and take a trip to the ocean. This is absolutely NOT the smartest thing to do when confronted by a shark (although probably is one of the coolest). Doing this effectively requires an expert in a controlled environment, and even then, rubbing it on the nose would likely paralyze a shark only for a minute or so. Still, a minute of awesomeness ensues.
Why does this work? Tonic immobility, or as beastmasters call it – animal hypnosis, is a state of paralysis some animals enter in response to a certain stimuli. It just so happens that, for sharks, that stimuli is an inter-species Eskimo kiss.
Shark’s nose is an incredibly sensitive part of its body, although no one can say for sure why rubbing it puts them to sleep. One of the reasons could be that petting the shark likely requires it to stay in one place, which often equals death for the fish: sharks need to constantly be on the move in order not to drown, as they don’t have the necessary muscles to help them pump the water through their mouths and over the gills.
Additionally, some sharks become paralyzed when humans flip them over, rendering them completely despondent and accounting for some of the most jealousy-inducing Facebook profile pictures of all times.
But apart from earning them bragging rights on social media, there are other unique ways sharks have helped humans out over the years. For example, you might be surprised to hear that:
5. They solve crimes.
In what is easily one of the most bizarre legal cases of the last century, a 14-foot tiger shark was caught in Sydney, Australia in 1935, and transferred to the local aquarium.
After a couple of days of captivity and open-water nostalgia, the animal fell ill and proceeded to vomit in front of a small crowd of people.
Although certainly embarrassing for the shark, the incident was further exacerbated by the fact that a human forearm was quickly identified floating among the regurgitated objects. It was later discovered that the tiger shark had devoured a smaller shark prior to its capture, and that it was actually the smaller shark that had initially swallowed the arm.
Pretty crazy, right? But here’s when it gets interesting (you know, since the first part of the story was just plain ol’ bore).
The forearm had a distinctive tattoo of a badly-drawn boxer (because the 40s), and the mysterious limb was soon discovered to have been severed with a knife.
Fingerprints from the arm paired with a boxer tattoo proved enough to identify the victim as a former boxer and petty criminal James Smith, all leading up to an official investigation.
As a result, the guilty parties were swiftly brought to justice, and the shark went on to open its own PI business, eventually taking down several notorious Aussie gangs. OK, maybe not, but the way this story was going, I’m sure that epilogue would surprise exactly no one.
And finally, other than having the same appreciation for justice as we do, there’s another weird way sharks are much like us in high school:
6. They’re avid metalheads
As far as music-themed shark facts go (wait, is that a thing?), this one definitely takes the cake. There’s a hefty list of metal bands featuring sharks on their album covers, but few of them are probably aware of a somewhat mutual admiration which seems to have developed here.
This was first asserted by Matt Waller, a tour operator in Neptune Bay, Australia, who regularly played metal and rock n roll tunes near the hammerhead shark cages during his shift (employee of the month, anyone?).
What Matt soon learned was that, although sharks don’t technically have ears, this had done little to stop them from rocking it to the greatest hits of KISS. The fishes’ two favorite songs were ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ and AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’, during which they became more inquisitive and a lot less aggressive.
Waller thinks it has something to do with tunes hitting a specific frequency or inducing certain vibrations in the water, which makes these evergreens particularly appealing to the shark. Me, I’m siding with the ‘sharks are just badass’ argument, which has yet to gain significant traction within the mainstream scientific community. Whatever it is, the tour operators are hoping to utilize the findings in the future, by using music instead of bait to lure sharks during the tours.
So, how many of these Shark facts did you know about? Got some similar ones to share? Let us know in the comments below!