We’ve come a long way since Jaws first swam onto screens 40 years ago. Petal pushers have (for the most part) gone out of style and we have learned a lot about the ocean and the 400+ species of shark that live there.
Our infatuation with these majestic creatures has grown exponentially over the years, and with it, so have some myths about sharks.
As our celebration of Shark Week continues, we’d like to take this opportunity to debunk a few of the most common shark myths:
All sharks are large, menacing creatures.
There are over 465 known species of shark found worldwide. They range in size from the smallest shark species, the pygmy shark, which measures up to 8 inches in length to the largest, the whale shark, which can grow to be up to a whopping 50 feet in length!
Sharks come in all shapes and sizes! Some species like sandbar sharks have a more “traditional” look, while others like the wobbegong shark are surprising members of the shark family!
All sharks are vicious, human-eating predators.
Sharks are some of the ocean’s most powerful apex predators. Their diets include everything from crustaceans and octopuses to small mammals, including seals. Not included in their diets are humans.
When shark bites occur, it is most likely for one of the following reasons: the shark has mistaken the shape of a human for a seal, the shark is curious and trying to determine if what it’s seeing is food, or the shark has been provoked.
Sharks cannot have cancer.
Cancer in sharks is uncommon, but the myth that they can’t get cancer is unfounded. This statement has lead to the pervasion of another myth, that sharks cartilage can cure cancer.
Unfortunately, neither statement is true and the steady sale of shark cartilage pills over the last 45 years has caused a serious decline in shark populations.
Sharks have no predators.
Sadly, humans have become the greatest threat to shark populations worldwide. Due to demand for their fins, cartilage and our misplaced fear of these animals, close to 100 million sharks are killed every year.
The good news is: together, we can give these animals the reputation and respect they deserve!