Thursday, August 16, 2012

25 Years of Shark Week!

   Can you believe it has been 25 years since shark week began? 25 years of educating the general public, most of which will never see a real shark in its natural environment, that sharks are much more than mindless eating machines. That impression, of course, was greatly influenced by movies like the "Jaws". Probably because of it's age or the fact I have seen it 50 times, or perhaps because of information I have learned off from Shark Week programing, I'm not fearful of these creatures. Respectful, but not fearful. I do have to admit though... for a PG-13 film... "Jaws" sacred the bejesus out of me when I was a kid.

   The guys and I were talking about Shark Week and sharks and got on the discussion of shark species. Did you know that there are over 400 species of sharks? Here are a few you have heard of... and a few that might be new to you.

Tiger Shark - Its name derives from the dark stripes down its body which resemble a tiger's pattern, which fade as the shark matures. It is found in many tropical and temperate waters, and is especially common around central Pacific islands. Tiger Sharks are capable of attaining a length of over 16 ft. The tiger shark is considered to be one of the sharks most dangerous to humans, the attack rate is surprisingly low according to researchers. The tiger is second on the list of number of recorded attacks on humans, with the great white shark being first. The Tiger Shark is considered a near threatened species due to finning and fishing by humans.

Great White Shark - Found in coastal surface waters in all major oceans the Great White is known for its size, with the largest individuals known to have exceeded 20 ft in length, and 5,000 lb in weight. This shark can have a life span of over 30 years. It is ranked first in a list of number of recorded attacks on humans, but in reality, humans are not the preferred prey of the great white shark.

Hammer Head Shark - Unlike most sharks, hammerheads usually swim in schools during the day, becoming solitary hunters at night. Some of these schools can be found near Malpelo Island in Colombia, Cocos Island, off Costa Rica, and near Molokai Island, in Hawaii. Large schools are also seen in southern and eastern Africa. Nine known species range from 3 to 20 ft long and weigh from 500 to 1000 pounds. Of the nine known species of hammerhead, three can be dangerous to humans: the scalloped, great, and smooth hammerheads. As of 2010 there have been 33 attacks, but no fatalities.

Mako Shark - The shortfin mako inhabits offshore temperate and tropical seas worldwide. Makos travel long distances to seek prey or mates. In December 1998, a female tagged off California was captured in the central Pacific by a Japanese research vessel, meaning this fish traveled over 1,725 miles! The Mako is the fastest species of shark. Some scientists suggest that the mako can swim up to 62 mph. This high-leaping fish is a highly sought-after game fish worldwide. There are cases when an angry mako jumped into a boat after having been hooked.

Goblin Shark - A deep-sea shark, the most distinctive characteristic of the goblin shark is the unusual shape of its head. Some of their known prey are deep-sea squid, crabs, and deep-sea fish. Very little is known about the species' life history and reproductive habits, as encounters with them have been relatively rare.

Whale Shark - The Whale Shark is a slow-moving filter feeding shark. The largest confirmed individual had a length of 41.50 ft and a weight of more than 47,000 lb, and there are unconfirmed reports of considerably larger whale sharks! The whale shark is found in tropical and warm oceans and lives in the open sea with a lifespan of about 70 years. Despite its size, the whale shark does not pose significant danger to humans. Although massive, whale sharks are docile fish and sometimes allow swimmers to catch a ride, although this practice is discouraged by shark scientists and conservationists. Younger whale sharks are actually quite gentle and can play with divers.

   What is your favorite shark? Be sure to catch the rest of Shark Week, all week on the Discovery Channel.