(Images via: Scrape TV, Flickr, Discovery, Reef Ed, Big Blue Tech, Pagog, Mom and Pop’s Internet Shop)
During a recent bout of insomnia, the classic movie “Jaws” was on television, a flick that is the reason I have and will never set a foot in the ocean. In honor of that amazing Steven Spielberg feature and its all-at-once intimidating yet intriguing star, here are seven cool (and even surprising) recent discoveries about sharks, including everything from camouflage sharks and sharks with ESP to shark attack probabilities and peaceful interactions with smaller fish.
Camouflage Sharks: Sounds Scary Enough to be True
(Images via: Observations of a Nerd, University of Tampa Shark Lab, Wikipedia)
Did you know that approximately 50 species of sharks, that is 10 percent of all sharks, are able to emit light that allows them to disappear from both predators and prey? That’s right, according to a recent study in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. Specifically studying a luminous shark known as the velvet belly lantern shark, researchers discovered that this type of shark can produce and emit light from underneath its body, essentially allowing the shark to mimic environmental light and thus camouflage itself from other unsuspecting fish. Fortunately, the velvet belly lantern shark does not feast on humans, who could find themselves in quite a pickle if this camouflaged creature were to pass by.
The Spidey Senses of Sharks
(Images via: Elasmo Diver, Flickr, Geekologie, Wikimedia)
While some sharks are blessed with the ability to disguise themselves via self-emitted light, all sharks are blessed with super senses similar to humans and advantageous in the deep sea. Take for instance the fact that sharks have ESP – electric sense perception – thanks to electroreceptors that are extremely sensitive to picking up the electric signals of wounded or trapped fish. Or that sharks have eyes like us (with the exception of lenses) that allow them to control light and see well in dark conditions underwater. Or that sharks have perceptive noses that allow them to pick up chemicals in the water. Or that they rely on an incredible sense of touch – both when hearing (through small hairs in the ear that allow them to feel water changes) and tasting (by first biting their prey to determine whether it is a worthy meal). Or that sharks have a lateral line that allows them to detect the movement and sense the direction of any solid body that moves through water, a sense that is not comparable to humans. When you package all of these shark senses together, it’s no wonder this creature rules the seas.
Remembering Not to Forget: Shark Long-Term Memories
(Images via: Liverpool Daily Post, Crusader Travel, Discovery, AIMS, Shark Information, Swim at Your Own Risk)
Geez, given all of these super senses, it wouldn’t seem that sharks need any more advantages. Well, that’s not the case for tiger sharks, which apparently have incredible memories, specifically when it comes to remembering hot spots for good meals. According to a study to be published in the journal Marine Biology, tiger sharks will memorize previous locations that offered good meals and will repeatedly return to those areas even if thousands of miles away (quite possibly by using internal clocks that guide their movements back to these bountiful feeding locales). In a similar light, Galapagos sharks also remember filling locations, though they do not stray as far from these spots as the tiger sharks.
Shark Gumption for the Sake of More Consumption
(Images via: Brine Queen, Arkive, Glaucus, Bootleg)
Judging by the incredible senses, memories and other capabilities of sharks, it’s hardly surprising that these animals would be a little full of themselves and feel as if they’re untouchable. Well, a recent study pulled out some surprises in terms of the confidence and risk-taking abilities of some gill sharks, which entered waters more than 900 feet below sea level to feast on pig carcasses dropped in by researchers. These sharks were willing to enter these dead zones – where oxygen is extremely low and suffocation is a very real possibility – all for the sake of the meal. Guess some sharks just love the thrill and spoils of the hunt, although the study did find that some depths were just too deep for even these cocky sharks to venture.
Reversed Waters: Lifting Great White Sharks Out of the Sea
(Images via: National Geographic, Surfer’s Village)
Apparently, some researchers want to know what it’s like to be God, that is via the use of a hydraulic lift that is able to carry SUV-sized great white sharks out of the water, all for the sake of research purposes. As to be depicted on the new television series Expedition Great White, researchers began lifting great white sharks out of the water in 2007, first beginning with smaller great whites and then advancing to larger great whites. After catching a great white with tuna, the researchers would lift the mammoth creature out of the water for no more than 15 minutes, using this time to take blood samples, make measurements and attach tracking devices on the shark’s dorsal fin to study movement, feeding and reproduction patterns. While the great white sharks were probably a bit surprised and certainly not too happy about getting pulled out of the water, the researchers were considerate of their feelings, using a hydration hose to pump seawater into the sharks and thus avoid suffocation. While certainly a frightening proposition, the shark elevator has apparently allowed researchers to examine great whites in ways that were previously only possible with dead specimens, especially when considering the dangers of being in the water with live great whites.
You Might Be a Shark Attack Victim If…
(Images via: Surfer’s Village, Shark Attack Photos, Extreme Survive, Panoramio)
Speaking of recent shark discoveries, a new study recently found that 21 percent of the global number of shark attacks that occurred between 1999 and 2008 took place on 47-mile strip of Florida’s coastline. Luckily, most of these attacks were by smaller sharks that were confused by humans, and no worse than a dog bite (I’ll have to take the study on its word regarding this last point). Especially interesting, the study was able to determine that people were more likely to be bitten by sharks on a Sunday (when more people were in the water), when wearing black and white shorts (due to the visual adeptness of sharks at picking up contrasts), when swimming during a new moon or full moon (when the tides are highest) and when swimming in less than 6 feet of ocean water. Last but not least, shark attacks in this area were more likely to happen to men than women since men tend to spend more time in the water.
The Softer Side of Sharks: Going to the Fish Car Wash
(Image via: Ningaloo Kayak Adventures)
While these previous discoveries may have hardly changed your opinions or fears about sharks, it should be known that some sharks pay respect to smaller fish. In the Osprey Reef, more than 1100 sharks were observed gathering in fish cleaning stations where the sharks would take a vertical pose, signifying to smaller fish that they were there to be cleaned. In none of these cases did researchers ever see the sharks eating the smaller fish; rather it appeared that the sharks were respecting the process, which benefitted them by removing mucus, algae and dead tissues and also aided the smaller fish by providing them with essential nutrients. Maybe sharks aren’t as bad as they’re cracked up to be, that is when there is something to benefit them in the long run.