Whether it’s Jaws or Finding Nemo, the ocean’s mightiest predator has a bit of a bad rep. When in fact, the odds of being killed by a shark in Australia are only one in eight million! To help drown out the myths and arm you to the teeth with the truth, we’ve collected 20 jaw-dropping facts that you might not know about these fascinating fish.
1. Sharks are ancient
Scientists believe they first appeared in the ocean around 455 million years ago making them older than dinosaurs.
2. Back in the day, sharks were bigger than buildings!
Around 16 million years ago the Carcharodon Megalodon grew to about 17 metres long, weighed 25 tonnes and ate dolphins, whales and other megalodons. They’re the largest predator that ever lived.
3. The goblin shark was around long before the megalodons
Dating back to 120 million years old – and they still reside deep underwater near the ocean floor, giving them the title of ‘living fossil’.
4. A shark’s jaws aren’t the only things to look out for!
Their skin is made up of tiny teeth-like structures called placoid scales that feel exactly like sandpaper.
5. Sharks have small black spots near their nose, eyes and mouth
Sharks have small black spots near their nose, eyes and mouth called electroreceptor organs. They let them sense electromagnetic fields and temperature changes in the ocean.
6. Sharks do not have bones.
They are made up of cartilaginous tissues, which is lighter than actual bone and makes them more buoyant.
7. Sharks can have up to 15 series of teeth in each jaw
If you thought losing baby teeth were a pain, sharks can have up to 15 series of teeth in each jaw, with one line after the other. The teeth in the back can replace the teeth in the front, meaning sharks can grow up to 50,000 teeth in a lifetime.
8. Sharks have impressive hearing
While sharks are known for their amazing ability to smell (a great white can smell a single drop of blood in an Olympic-sized pool), they also have impressive hearing. They can hear low-frequency sounds at almost one kilometre away.
9. Sharks are the epitome of silent but deadly.
They have no vocal chords and don’t produce audible sounds. Instead, they communicate through movement.
10. Never ask a shark its age
You can just count the rings on their vertebrae to find out.
11. Some sharks have special retinas
that allow them to warm up their eyes and brains so they can better detect movement and improve the resolution of their vision.
12. Who runs the sea? Girls!
In most shark species, female sharks are larger than male sharks.
13. There are almost 500 species of sharks
There are almost 500 species of sharks including carpet, angel, weasel, crocodile, zebra and dogfish sharks.
14. Having a weird head pays off
hammerheads have 360-degree vision.
15. Blue sharks have a serious amount of pups
Blue sharks (who are actually blue) are known to give birth to as many as 135 pups in one litter.
16. Sharks move to breathe
A lot of shark species have to be continuously swimming to breathe, which means no sleep for them – they remain at least semi-conscious at all times.
17. The dwarf lantern shark is as small as a goldfish.
If that wasn’t strange enough, its organs emit light through its belly to help it camouflage in rays of sunlight.
18. Whale sharks are the largest and longest fish in the ocean
Plus no whale shark’s spot pattern is the same. Their skin is also around 15cm deep. That’s one tough shield of armour!
19. Night vision
Sharks have brilliant night vision and can see quite well in poorly lit areas.
20. Sharks don’t have any natural predators.
Really, their only threat is humans. Between harmful shark control methods and the deteriorating state of the ocean, sharks – and many more marine animals – are in hot water. But, you can help! Volunteer at beach cleans, say no to single-use plastics and opt for sustainably made swimwear. Share information and raise awareness so sharks can finally be revered, rather than feared!
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