Earlier this morning, I was on Facebook when the video above popped up on my news feed. Check it out! You will be amazed!
It is not clearly understood why different species of sharks, specifically great white sharks and tiger sharks, shoot straight up out of the ocean; flipping head over fins high into the air. Dolphins and other cetaceans will often jump out of the water as they are traveling in pods or as individuals. This behavior is called “porpoising” and is often done to view their surroundings or to jump just for the pure joy of it.
Shark week occurred earlier this month on the Discovery Channel. Since the early 90’s, Shark week has been a special commemoration of different shark species and how amazing they are! Therefore, here are some of my favorite species of sharks!
The nurse shark doesn’t really work in an underground hospital caring for sick and injured fish. The scientific name of the nurse shark is Ginglymostoma cirratum which means a mouth that is twisted or held together at one place. No one is exactly sure how the nurse shark got its name. Their mouth is puckered and reminds many people of a baby when it is nursing from its mother. The name may have come from the ancient word nusse; a word meaning cat shark. However, the word hurse, meaning sea-floor shark in Old English appears to be the most favored theory.
Nurse sharks are harmless to humans unless provoked. Thousands of tiny, sharp teeth occupy the space inside their mouth and they are not afraid to use them to defend themselves. They prefer to spend their time on the seafloor foraging for shellfish, coral, shrimp, fish and squid. These sharks weight around an average of 300 pounds and can grow up to 14 feet!
Nurse sharks call the eastern Pacific and western Atlantic oceans their home. They prefer water that is relatively shallow and close to the sun where it is nice and warm. They are ranked as Least Concern or No Concern in terms of a conservation status. These sharks are quite abundant throughout their home range. However, as human populations continue to grow and harvest the oceans for food, this putting more and more pressure on where the nurse shark lives. If we are not careful, this species of shark may end up on the bad end of a conservation checklist.
One of the strangest shark species, basking sharks are actually quite amazing once you get to know them. Even bigger than a great white shark, these fish are the second largest fish in the world; coming in a close second to the whale shark! Check out this amazing video on basking sharks that live just off the coast of Scotland!
These sharks are massive! They can get up to 35 feet long! The good news is that even though they are huge and intimidating, they love to consume one of the smallest creatures in the ocean; zooplankton. As they cruise close to the surface, basking sharks will open up their huge mouths and consume plankton as they move along. Their mouth, when stretched, opens up to a width of about 3 feet and acts as a giant sieve that filters out water and catches the zooplankton.
Whether the water is cool or warm, these sharks have a surprisingly large home range. They have been seen swimming from the coasts of Nova Scotia near Canada to the Sea of Japan in the Pacific. As mentioned above, they love to swim near the surface of the water. Because of this, the basking shark gets its name because it looks as though it is “basking” in the sun. If this shark lived on land, I bet you would find him or her at the tanning salon! Whether swimming alone or in groups of up to 100, these sharks are often seen in the middle of consuming a plankton buffet.
Even though these sharks are the second largest fish in the world, not much is known about their behavior. Mating behavior and migration behavior are just a few of the mysteries about this shark that have yet to be answered or observed. But slowly and surely, scientists are taking closer steps to unraveling these questions about one of the world’s biggest fish!
Whenever I think of a shark’s habitat, I imagine the scene from Flipper where Scar, the hammerhead shark tries to attack Flipper in the middle of a coral reef in the Bahamas. I would never have expected to find a shark that lives in the frigid waters of the far north. But guess what?! There IS a shark that lives in the frigid waters of the far north. The Greenland shark! This shark wins the cake for my absolute favorite shark of all time!
These sharks have some of the largest populations of sharks in the world. They have an extra gill just like other species of sharks that lived in prehistoric time periods. Plus, they can live to be 200 years old! What more could you ask for in a shark that is super cool?! However, living in super cold and deep waters does have its drawbacks. The fastest these sharks can swim is a whopping 1.7 miles an hour. They are almost completely blind and they like to consume the rotting carcasses of other fish or anything else that sinks down from the ocean surface (Eew!). But just like vultures, if sharks and other creatures did not eat dead or dying matter, we would be up to our eyeballs in dead stuff. Imagine the smell!
Greenland sharks can get up to 24 feet long. They primarily live in Arctic waters but have been seen as far south as the coast of Portugal and off the coast of Canada. Not much was known about their behavior until recently. Different discoveries have revealed that this shark actually lives quite a bizarre lifestyle. One of the main reasons that these sharks are mostly blind is due to a parasite that prefers to make its home on the shark’s eye. Ommatokoita elongata, a small crustacean, will attach to the cornea of the shark’s eye and cause permanent damage. It has been estimate that about 90% of the total populations of these sharks off the coast of Greenland carry these parasites. Even though these sharks have been known to eat rotting carcasses on the seafloor, many scientists theorize that, just like other sharks, Greenland sharks may go after seals and even species of cold water cetaceans! This species of shark just goes to show that, once again, Nature continues to surprise and delight us with new and unexpected discoveries concerning the animal world.
Hopefully this small insight into the world of the shark gives you a greater appreciation of this amazing animal. Happy Shark Week 2015 everyone!