9 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Sharks
It’s officially Shark Week – a celebration of some of the ocean’s most misunderstood creatures. Here are some interesting facts about these often vilified animals:
1. The UK is home to over 40 species of shark. 21 species can be found year round with 11 species found solely in deep water.
2. They have fun names! In the UK, you can find knifetooth dogfishes, demon catsharks, bluntnose sixgill sharks, nursehounds, leafscale gulper sharks and velvet belly lantern sharks.
3. Two families of deep-sea sharks are bioluminescent which means that they are able to glow in the dark. They are the kitefin shark and the lantern shark. It is believed that this adaptation helps them camouflage themselves but can also be used as a means of identification in the lantern shark families as each shark has its own distinctive bioluminescent marking.
4. Although media like to sensationalise shark attacks, there has never been an unprovoked shark bite in the British Isles. If fact, there are only a few sharks that are considered to be potentially dangerous to humans and none of them are found in British waters.
5. Sharks can come in all sizes. The UK is home to one of the biggest – the basking shark that can grow up to 8 metres. But sharks can also be relatively small like the velvet belly lantern shark which on average grow to 45 cm.
6. They can do acrobatics. Thresher sharks have been seen jumping off the coast of Pembrokeshire. They are one of a few shark species that can leap of out of the water like dolphins.
7. Most sharks give birth to live young. But some species give birth via eggcases. These are leather-like pouches where a fertilised shark egg is left in the sea to develop into a shark pup. When the pup is fully developed, it breaks free of the eggcase and the eggcase washes ashore. Many people find the eggcases on the beach and affectionately refer to them as ‘mermaid purses’.
8. Not all sharks eat live prey. In fact some sharks like the basking shark are filter feeders. These massive creatures seek out plankton-rich feeding grounds. They then swim very slowly with their jaws open filtering the sea water for plankton.
9. Many species are endangered – in fact a quarter of all species are threatened and only a third are considered safe. The main threat comes from fisheries where the sharks are caught in long-line and trawling nets as bycatch. This is why Shark Week is so important. It provide a counter-narrative to the sensationalised media stories and gives us a reason to save our sharks.
About Tisha Brown
I am a campaigner on the oceans team.