The Beacon

Shark Myths and Facts

Here's a list of common shark myths and the truth behind 'em, courtesy of our marine wildlife scientist and the rest of the crew in the science department. ...

1. Myth: Sharks are hungry, man eaters looking for any chance to attack.

Fact: Sharks have no desire to eat humans. Most of the "attacks" on humans are a mistake, which is why there are so many more bites than fatalities. There are around 350 species of sharks but white, tiger and bull sharks are the species responsible for the majority of all attacks.

2. Myth: Sharks are all the same.

Fact: The reality is just the opposite. Shark species are very different in size, appearance, habitat, diet and behavior. The typical "Jaws" vision is far from the norm.

3. Myth: All sharks are voracious predators.

Fact: Whale sharks (the largest shark species), basking and megamouth sharks are all filter feeders that consume a diet primarily of phytoplankton and krill.

4. Myth: Sharks are useless and we would be better off without them.

Fact: Sharks are important to the health of ocean ecosystems. As the top predators, sharks keep the food web in balance.

5. Myth: If a shark attack has not occurred, it means they do not live in that area.

Fact: Sharks inhabit all of the world's oceans, from inshore coastal waters to the open deep-blue sea, and some can even be found in freshwater rivers and lakes.

6. Myth: Sharks have walnut-sized brains.

Fact: Shark species have big complex brains, especially the large active predatory sharks.

7. Myth: Sharks have poor vision.

Fact: A shark's vision is better than humans and their night vision is even better than cats. Their vision is designed to detect contrast and color.

8. Myth: Sharks are fast swimmers.

Fact: Sharks are capable of having bursts of speed, but most of the larger sharks cruise between 1.5 to 5 mph.

9. Myth: Sharks will eat anything.

Fact: While some sharks will eat anything, including garbage, most species are much pickier about their diet. Fish, crabs, squid, sting rays, other sharks and plankton make up the majority of a shark's diet, which also depends on the type of teeth they have.

10. Myth: Sharks have no predators.

Fact: The greatest threat to sharks is HUMANS.  We are disrupting the ocean ecosystem by killing too many sharks.

And in case you didn't know, now you know: Tune into Shark Week on Discovery Channel all this week!

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