BY HEATHER MARLETTE
Okay, so no, sharks do not grr nor do they argh – but if I can bring it back to Joss Whedon, and by extension Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I will. Every time – so, I guess warning blog readers, warning. Any way in today’s Shark Week tribute blog, I intend to kind of go over the different types of more well-known sharks to show you that they really are just animals that do what they do, no need to be scared. They are truly just doing what is in their nature to do, and they are not hunting human kind, no “man-eating” killer sharks here. I do have to give another disclosure – these are my personal favorite species of sharks. I have researched and know these sharks as they are the ones that interest me the most. Disclosure – I am not a shark expert and these are the facts I know to be true and am always welcome to scientific correction. The ranking of sharks is my opinion ONLY.
Number 10 on my list is the gigantic yet graceful Whale Shark. The Whale Shark is a filter feeding (feeds from straining water for food particles/matter) fish that grows to enormous length, the average being 31.82 feet and 9 tons– the largest recorded at 41.50 feet and 21.5 tons, though many have claimed to have seen larger. This shark enjoys warmer or tropical waters, and as far as science knows lives for about 70 years. Though they have been known mainly as filter feeders, there is some documentation of them feeding on small schools of fish, or in the area where fish have spawned. It is a five gill shark, with 300-350 sharp rows of small teeth. The shark has a grey body, white stomach and trademark yellow spots and stripes. The Whale Shark is an active feeder. This gentle giant does not appear to pose any harm to divers at all, and many divers report having been able to “catch a ride” on them – though, responsibility screams at me to mention that the shark scientific community majorly warns against this. Breeding and birthing are pretty un-known, though it is believed that they give birth to a pup, not lay eggs.
Number 9 is the Pacific Angelshark – which is shock of all shocks, a subspecies of the angel shark that is found in the Pacific Ocean. How do you like my investigative skills now, what, WHAT??It is mainly the Eastern Pacific, This is a small shark, averaging about 5 feet, and they have the same characteristic Angel Shark features, the flat body and large pectoral and pelvic fins. They are ambush predators who target their victims by sight, concealing themselves on the ocean floor and attacking squid and spiny fish that venture close enough. Most stay in a hunting spot up to several days. They are largely nocturnal creatures, staying buried under the sea floor in the day. They are mainly solo creatures and they are what are known as viviparous breeders, having up to 6 pups at a time. They are not necessarily dangerous to mankind, unless provoked which can result in a major and painful bite. Sadly they are classified as a Near Threatened species, since their meat is much sought after and are hunted by professionals and sportsman.
Next up at number 8 is the Silvertip Shark. This is a larger shark that can be easily identified by the white marks around the edge of its fin. It is found in both the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and can attain an average length of 10 feet. It is often spotted near coral reefs and near offshore islands, and can dive to depths as deep as 2,600 feet. They are also viviparous breeders, having up to 11 pups at a time, always in the summer season. They are a fierce predator that reigns over smaller fish and other requiem (live bearing, warm/fresh/brackish water, migratory) sharks similar in size, and often have scarred bodies to reflect their confrontational nature. They are not scared of humans, and since they are confrontational in nature, they are categorized as a threat to humans since they have no fear and often come close to divers. They are a huge target for hunters, as every part of them is coveted from their jaws/teeth to their fins to their meat. They join our friend the Pacific Angelshark on the Near Threatened Species list due to this.
Give it up for the requiem sharks – cruising in at Number 7 on this very scientific list is the Grey Reef Shark. It has the typical reef shark features with a short and round snout and big eyes. They are fast swimmers, and the most common reef shark in Indo-Pacific region. They will always be found in the shallow water before the coral reef drop-offs (I know, again with my investigative skills…) and are actually quite small for sharks, average length attained is usually a little over 6 feet. What they lack in length these lovely sharks make up with in aggression. Being ironic, they are not territorial creatures, but quite social, often hanging out in groups of as up to as many as 20 in daylight, and breaking off to individual hunting routines at night. They too are viviparous (realizing at this point I have not explained that well, it is simply a creature that sustains an embryo or embryos through a placental connection) giving birth from 1 to 6 pups every other year. They were one of the first and most definitive species to go through what is known as the threat display – hunching their posture, dropping their pectoral fins and swimming side to side. They are seen as dangerous to divers, and you should watch for their tell-tale threat display if around them. Since they are suspect to commercial fisheries combined with their slow and low reproduction rates, they too are on the Near Threatened Species lists…are you seeing a trend?
Sprint swimming into Number 6 is the beautiful Blue Shark There is nary a better shark to leave today’s blog with – and I do need to leave you wanting to come back for 5-1, right? They are of course a requiem shark, viviparous delivering large broods of 25-100 pups at a time and live for about 20 years to the best of our knowledge. They segregate into sexually specified schools also grouped by size, and have been called the “wolves” of the sea. They prefer cooler water and migrate large distances. Males range from 6 feet to 9 feet, and the female is larger at 7 feet to 11 feet, males reaching maturity at 4-5 years old, and females at 5-6 years old. Adult Blues do not have major predators outside of killer whales, while younger ones can fall victim to other sharks as well. They are typically slow moving and slightly lethargic, but can have great bursts of speed. They are not seen as hugely dangerous to mankind, with only a recorded 13 attacks on record, and 4 fatalities. They cannot be found on any lists and though upwards of 10 to maybe 20 million of them a year are recorded as hunted by humans, but their flesh though edible is not widely sought after, though they are sometimes sought after for sportsman due to their beauty and speed. They do not do well in captivity usually dying within 30 days – so let’s leave them in their natural habitat, please
There you go…numbers 10-6 on Heather’s list of rocking sharks…trust me, you want to tune in tomorrow when I will let you know the awesomeness of the top 5 sharks according to Heather…trust me there is no science here at all, so if you want to see something interesting, I would keep tuned…