Stewardship Monday: Mythbusting for Sharks

Between television shows (even ones claiming to be educational) to movies, sharks always seem to be the villains. It is time to do some mythbusting to help our old friends out.

Here are some common myths about sharks:

1. Sharks eat people

Fact: Humans don’t live in the water—they aren’t good food for animals that do! Many sharks do eat meat, mostly fish and invertebrates. A few species of shark eat larger prey, such as seals. Seals are an excellent source of calories because they have a thick layer of blubber. In comparison, I imagine that humans would taste gross—all bony and usually with a side of neoprene or fiberglass. Sharks have a lot of senses in and around their mouths, and they use these senses to explore potential food items. A rare encounter with a human would surely leave a bad taste in their mouths. http://www.coare.org/know/sharkmyths.php

2.  All sharks are predators

Fact: Some sharks, including the whale shark (the largest shark in the ocean), are actually filter feeders. They swim along with their mouths open wide, passively gulping down plankton and other small bits of food. Other sharks, including great white sharks, are often scavengers—taking advantage of an easy meal and doing the ocean a service by cleaning up the bodies of animals that have died. http://wildthings.sarahzielinski.com/blog/great-white-sharks-are-scavengers-will-you-think-less-of-them-now/

3.  Sharks have no predators

Fact: Even the largest predatory shark has predators. Orcas and other dolphins have been known to attack sharks. But of course, the most deadly predator of sharks is people—humans kill over 73 million sharks every year. http://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/shark-facts-vs-shark-myths

4.  All sharks must constantly swim to live

Fact: There is a huge diversity of sharks and shark lifestyles. Some pelagic sharks that swim the open ocean do depend on ram ventilation—they must swim to pass water over their gills. However, sharks such as the leopard sharks that live in the San Francisco Bay have spiracles, or special openings that allow them to pump water over their gills while they are not moving. Spiracles allow these sharks to forage and lie on the bottom, and they can even breathe while their mouths are full of food!

5.  Sharks have poor eye sight

Fact: Sharks have fairly large brains (similar in ratio to body size to birds and mammals) and well developed vision. They even have adaptations to see in low light and murky conditions! http://www.sharksavers.org/en/education/biology/myth-sharks-have-poor-vision1/

Helping people to understand sharks is a first step to helping them coexist with these creatures that have been around for a very long time (before dinosaurs!).

Here are some resources you can share with your friends: http://www.sharksavers.org/en/get-active/educate-your-community/downloads/

And fun activities to learn more about sharks: http://www.sharksavers.org/en/get-active/educate-your-community/downloads/kids-resources/

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