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. 

Want to learn more about sharks and how you can do your part to protect these animals? Click here

Previous Post

Featured Stories

Humpback whale Help Preserve the Endangered Species Act

The Endangered Species Act has supported work that has prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the species it has protected. That work is now under threat.

Read the full story

Atlantic puffin chick born at the National Aquarium Meet Our Trio of Puffin Chicks!

We are excited to welcome three new Atlantic puffin chicks to our Sea Cliffs exhibit!

Read the full story

Related Stories

Help Preserve the Endangered Species Act

Published September 12, 2018

It's Migration Season!

Published September 10, 2018