BY HEATHER MARLETTE
Yes, ladies and gentlemen. It is here. It is my happiest week of the year. There can be no substitution for this time of the year. Shark Week. It is a full week on the Discovery Channel of Great Whites, Tigers, Blues, Angels, Hammer Heads, and the Bull. It is almost like a time to see old friends on the television – catch up with what is happening with them. I have to also say, don’t give me any Sharknadocrap. I haven’t seen it, I won’t see it and it has nothing to do with Shark Week. It is yet another cheesy camp movie trying to use these apex predators to their advantage, playing on the base fear that exists in the human race of the unknown – a word that describes sharks pretty perfectly.
Don’t get me wrong, the Discovery channel walks a fine, FINE line about using that base fear to draw viewers in and show how sharks are truly creatures that deserve to be respected and protected. What gets them viewers are definitely the shows like Air Jaws, Air Jaws 2, Ultimate Air Jaws, and the various countdowns of attacks, bites and “most dangerous” sharks. It is a gimmick however, if you see that once you flip to watch those shows, you get sucked in to listen and watch the shows that reflect the fact that sharks are millions of years old and that over time have evolved into the apex predators and creatures that they are. When I say millions of years, of course that is an understatement as it is believed these creatures came to be in between 455 – 425 MILLION years ago, putting sharks as one of the first creatures evolved past bacteria on earth – predating even the mighty dinosaurs. It is believed that over the ages they evolved, and having survived all 5 major extinction events, that shaped the modern shark that is believed to have been perfected at the end of Cretaceous period as the Dinosaurs died out around 65 million years ago.
Some of these species still thrive today, mainly in deep waters. Of course, the shark that gets all the hype – the one that everyone thinks of when you say the name, is the Great White. The Great White is actually a young one, having only appeared on the fossil record 11 million years ago – though only the modern version, traces of them can be seen and traced back to the Cretaceous. The major shark that is extinct and has been buzzed about a lot over the past few years is Megladon, who many say have to have been the predecessor to the White. This is of course thought in most circles to be inaccurate – they in fact seemed to have co-existed for about 10 million years and avoided each other, the White in cooler water feeding off of seals and Megladon, who could grow up to 50 feet, in warmer waters feeding on the whale. Hammerheads as a complete species are the babies of the shark family, first bursting onto the scene no longer than 50 million years ago.
When you look at the dates, it is easy to see why sharks have evolved into what many call the perfect or apex predator. At the end of the day however, sharks are literally just living their lives, doing what they came to do. They are major players in keeping the oceans ecosystems balanced. They are the perfect predator, but have thrived for 450 million years in the perfect environment, ruling the seas due to a lack of a natural predator. That is all changing now. Man has burst onto the scene as the predator that can wipe out these beautiful creatures who rule the sea. I fear what will happen if mankind allows its need to be master of all creatures to win, if we wipe out these magnificent beasts. I joke all the time about sharks just being misunderstood creatures, but a huge part of me is serious as well. This week, I intend to use my blog as a little bit of a soapbox. I will be posting about sharks and trust me when I tell you, I am as pro-shark as I am pro-choice. Please flip to Discovery channel, and watch how these creatures want nothing from us but to be left alone.