Finteresting Facts About Sharks

The information contained in this website is believed to be correct, but we are always striving to learn the truth and the facts about these often misunderstood animals, Across the world more is being discovered day by day, so if you see something on the site and you have a question about it, please get in touch with us. 

Facts and Figures

Sharks are older than dinosaurs! Dinosaurs appeared roughly 230 million years ago. Based on fossils found in Australia and America scientists believe sharks have been living for the last 450 million years.

By James St. John - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75394610

The Shortfin Mako Shark is the world’s fastest recorded shark. It can clock in at speeds of up to 46 mph (76 km/h). It has an extremely streamlined body that is shaped like a torpedo that helps minimize drag as it cruises through the water.

By Patrick Doll - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25256243

The smallest known shark on record is a Dwarf Lantern shark, reaching 15 cms, weighing in at half a kilo.

Sharks can have a very impressive lifespan!    It is believed that the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) can live for more than 400 years, and doesn’t reach maturity until it is over 100 years old. The oldest known living individual  was born during the reign of James I and lived when the great fire of London raged. She reached adulthood around the time that the American revolution kicked off and lived through two world wars. And as far as we know she is still going. Incredible!

By Hemming1952 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75505720

The oldest believed species of living shark is the goblin shark that is thought to have been around for 120 million years.

CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1659003

The largest living shark is the Whale Shark which grows up to 18 metres and weighs up to 14 tonnes.

The largest shark to have ever lived was the massive Charcharodon megalodon that is believed to have grown up to 30 metres in length. These huge sharks have been extinct for 3 million years.

Shark age can sometimes be gained by counting the pairs of cloudy and clear bands on their vertebrae like rings on a tree.  (this gives an indication of age and is not completely accurate).

Great White sharks are known to breach clear of the water to catch their prey.

Angel sharks ambush prey and are believed to catch their food in one-tenth of one second.

Testing your Senses

Compared to most fish, sharks are very smart. Sharks have the largest brains of any fish. Allthough we can’t do an IQ test, sharks can learn simple problem solving skills, learn tasks, and amazingly remember those tasks later!

Just because you can’t see a shark’s ears, that doesn’t mean they don’t have them! Sharks ears are hidden below the skin with an opening behind the eyes. Their hearing is fantastic with the ability to hear sounds at a much lower frequency than humans.

Sharks have a reflective membrane at the back of the eye, similar to cats and crocodiles, which allows them to see well in low levels of light and murky waters.

Sharks are excellent hunters. Their primary sense is the sense of smell, which is capable of detecting a drop of blood in an Olympic sized swimming pool (sharks can detect smell from up to 10 kilometers from potential prey).

Sharks have a reputation for finding prey by smell. However, they can also detect tiny electrical fields generated by other animals, including the electrical pulses created by the animal’s heartbeat. This is called electroreception. Round the snout of the shark are small pores called the Ampullae of Lorenzini which are connected to the nerves and the brain by long, jelly-filled bulbs. Sharks are believed to have several thousand of these pores.

When light is dim this electromagnetic sense is very useful for locating prey. It is also used as a compass during migration. Hammerhead sharks are especially good at using electrocreception as their broad heads allow them to hold around 3000 pores to detect prey.

Sharks mainly communicate through body language. Some common communications involve zigzag swimming, head shaking, hunched backs, and tail slapping.

Bet you didn't know this...

Sharks, rays and skates are in the same family group because they all share the same type of skeleton – which has no bones. Instead of bone they are made of cartilaginous tissues—the clear gristly stuff that your ears and nose tip are made of.  It is very strong and much more flexible, keeping them agile and fast.

Unlike bony fish who have a swim bladder, sharks have a huge liver full of oil to control their buoyancy. This liver can make up one third of the weight of the shark and sadly this is one of the reasons why they were hunted years ago, for the oil often used in industrial machines, etc. Fortunately, now we have synthetic oil to do the same job.

Unlike bony fish, sharks can only swim forward. This is because their fins are stiff and cannot be controlled by muscles as well as evolution playing its part in making forward motion as effortless as possible, through design and teeth on the skin to reduce friction/drag as they swim.

Blue sharks are really blue. The blue shark is a brilliant blue colour on the upper portion of its body and is normally creamy white beneath.

For more photographs of these stunning animals click on the photograph below.

Shark skin feels just like sandpaper because it is made up of tiny teeth-like structures called placoid scales, also known as dermal denticles. These scales point towards the tail and help the shark swim more efficiently. Humans have tried to copy the design of the shark skin. Some interesting examples are swim suits to make you swim faster, and some jets that have incorporated the design to make them fly faster and be more fuel efficient. 

Tonic immobility is a phenomenon where a shark falls into a hypnotic trance if it is turned upside down.

Little is known about its underlying neurological and physiological processes.  A lot of scientists have used it to their advantage, particularly for tag insertion and measurements of the sharks.

Mozcashew1 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Misunderstood

In 1974, Peter Benchley had a book published, which told of a Great White shark that terrorised a small coastal town. It was entitled Jaws. The film made from the book was so popular that it created widespread fear about shark attacks. The author of the book, Peter Benchley, never believed that the story about a fish could touch the fears of so many people, he regretted this outcome and has since become an outspoken activist for shark conservation.

Most sharks do not like the taste of humans, so they most often just take a bite and swim away disinterested.

Shark interactions with humans are extremely rare and account for 5 to 10 fatalities worldwide each year.

Humans kill 100 million sharks a year. 

That means for every single person killed by a shark, humans kill 10 – 20 million sharks.

Click on the image below to link to an original clip of

Peter Benchley talking ‘Jaws’ on Greater Boston in 2004

If sharks could speak

they would be asking for help

While sharks are no longer commercially targetted for their oil, they are still under massive pressure from finning. Shark finning is the act of removing fins from sharks and discarding the rest of the shark at sea. Often the sharks are still alive when discarded, but without their fins and unable to swim effectively, they sink to the bottom of the ocean and die slowly of suffocation or are eaten by other predators.This commercial activity contributes significantly to the number of sharks killed each year. Much campaigning is underway to control or stop this.

By NOAA - http://www.magazine.noaa.gov/stories/mag230.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6939554

The International Union for Conservation of Nature is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it. They maintain the Red List of known threatened & endangered species in the world.

The  Red List now includes 96,951 species of which 26,840 are threatened with extinction. That’s more than 27% of all assessed species in the world.

Sharks and rays are one of the worst faring with 31% threatened with extinction, an increase from the previous 25% number.

Time to get involved and offer your help?

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