Happy Shark Awareness Day!

In honor of this humble holiday, we’re sharing stories about these apex predators and the important role they play in maintaining a healthy ocean: 

Published July 14, 2016

Everything In Moderation 

Sharks have historically been demonized for their apparent ferocity. And while it’s true sharks have a healthy appetite, it’s not for humans. Sharks actually play a critical role in keeping ecosystems in check. In fact, these efficient eaters often go after old, sick or injured animals. In the process, they help regulate the ecosystem—eliminating competition, eradicating disease and maintaining balance in the food chain.

Blacktip Reef Shark

As far as ocean inhabitants go, sharks are considered a “keystone" species because of the role they play at the top of many food webs. For example, when shark populations decline in certain coral reef areas, scientists often see a correlating depletion in the overall health of the reefs. 

Super Senses

Often referred to as a shark’s “sixth sense,” is the ability to detect electrical fields. A shark’s head is covered in special, jelly-filled cells (ampullae of Lorenzini) that receive tiny electrical signals from their surrounding environment. Electroreception gives sharks a special advantage when it comes to seeking out prey!

Leopard Shark

Sharks also use their keen sense of smell to chase prey and find a mate. It can even help them find their way! A recent study out of San Diego highlights the leopard shark’s supreme ability to navigate using its sense of smell. 

A Legacy of Learning

Sharks have fascinated us for centuries. These animals predate the dinosaurs by 200 million years. But there’s still a lot left to learn. More than 400 species of shark inhabit the ocean—and new species (including the occasional volcano-dwelling shark) are being discovered every day. 

See our sharks in action at aqua.org/live!

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