Since 1988, Americans have spent one week out of every summer going gaga for sharks. Of course we’re talking about Shark Week, the Discovery Channel’s massively popular annual celebration of those terrifying but fascinating fish. PawNation loves sharks, too, and each individual shark species has its own interesting story. Click through to learn 10 fun facts about sharks.
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THE UNITED STATES AVERAGES 19 SHARK ATTACKS PER YEAR
Ever since “Jaws” made everyone afraid to go in the water almost 40 years ago, shark attacks have been high on people’s lists of fears. But there is an average of only 19 shark attacks per year in the U.S., and only one fatal attack every two years or so. Statistically, you’re more likely to be killed by a lightning bolt.
SHARKS NEVER RUN OUT OF TEETH
As a human, you get one set of baby teeth. Those are replaced by one set of adult teeth. If you lose those, you’re out of luck unless you get dentures. Sharks have it better. A typical shark normally has a couple dozen teeth in its mouth at once, but can rely on infinite replacements. Shark teeth are arranged in rows, and as forward teeth wear out or are lost, rear teeth move up to replace them. Some sharks' teeth are replaced every few weeks.
A GROUP OF SHARKS IS CALLED A SHIVER
A group of fish is commonly called a school, but sharks have their own special term for group meetups: a shiver. And some sharks are indeed quite social. Lemon sharks, for example, make and maintain social networks. “They basically have friends,” said Tristan Guttridge, a behavioral ecologist at Bimini Biological Field Station in the Bimini Islands. “They have individuals that they prefer to follow and have social interactions with.”
THE DWARF LANTERN SHARK IS THE SMALLEST SHARK SPECIES
Smaller than a human hand, the dwarf lantern shark holds the Guinness World Record for the smallest shark. These dogfish sharks typically measure 6.3-6.8 inches. In second and third place for the record are the spined pygmy shark at 6.7-7.8 inches, and the pygmy ribbontail catshark at 7-7.4 inches.
THE FRILLED SHARK IS THE OLDEST SHARK SPECIES STILL IN EXISTENCE
Having been on the planet for 150 million years, frilled sharks are the oldest species of shark still in existence, and one of Earth’s oldest species period. Given their age, these primitive animals are far less evolved than more “modern” sharks, and therefore their simple bodies appear like some combination of a shark and an eel. Frilled sharks live in the deep ocean and rarely encounter humans.
GREAT WHITE SHARKS EAT 11 TONS OF FOOD PER YEAR
Great whites have arguably the most feared teeth on Earth, and the hungry fish put them to constant use, consuming 11 tons of food in one year. Compare that to the half-ton of food that a typical human eats in the same amount of time. That’s why we don’t make good shark food, by the way. We’re too scrawny. Sharks prefer to hunt critters with a lot more fat. Seals, for example, have around 50 percent body fat, making for one of the great white’s favorite treats.
HAMMERHEADS HAVE A BETTER SENSE OF SMELL THAN OTHER SHARKS
The unique shape that gives the hammerhead shark its name doesn’t only help its vision by having its eyes a great distance apart; it also grants them widely spaced nostrils. Therefore, they possess olfaction as acute as their binocular vision. They can even detect the distance of a scent based on the time lag between nostrils, similar to human hearing. In other words, hammerhead sharks can smell better than their sharky cousins.
HUMANS FIRST DISCOVERED THE MEGAMOUTH SHARK IN 1976
The first time humans laid eyes on the extremely rare megamouth was a mere 38 years ago, and it happened in Hawaii. The unique new species prompted scientists to create an entire new family and genus of sharks to classify it. Since then, humans have met megamouths in California, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Brazil, Ecuador, Senegal, South Africa, Mexico and Australia. More recently, a megamouth caught off Japan in May 2014 marked the 58th human-megamouth encounter.
SALMON SHARKS ARE THE FASTEST SHARK SPECIES
As mackerel sharks, salmon sharks share a similarly fearsome appearance to great white sharks, and they are significantly faster to boot. While great whites swim at about 35 mph, the United States Navy has recorded salmon sharks booking it at 50 mph. Their speed is believed to be due in part to their homeothermy, a biological thermoregulation that maintains salmon sharks’ body temperature even in freezing-cold conditions.
Next: 10 Cool Facts About Pink Dolphins
WHALE SHARKS ARE THE LARGEST FISH ON EARTH AND CAN LIVE 150 YEARS
Is a whale shark a whale or a shark? It’s a shark, named after whales presumably because it is the world’s largest fish at 60 feet long. And with great size comes a great lifespan, at least in this case. While many whale shark pups die young, those that survive can live to be 100-150 years old. The slow-moving giants are susceptible to fishing, however, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature currently lists the species as vulnerable, one step away from endangered.