Sharks are one of the most fascinating creatures in the ocean, with over 500 species found in seas and oceans around the world. They are known for their sharp teeth, powerful jaws, and sleek bodies that allow them to move quickly through the water. Sharks have been around for over 400 million years, and they have evolved to become some of the most efficient predators in the ocean.
There are many different types of sharks, each with their own unique characteristics and behaviors. Some sharks, like the great white shark and tiger shark, are apex predators that can grow to be over 20 feet long and weigh thousands of pounds. Other sharks, like the pygmy shark and lantern shark, are much smaller and can fit in the palm of your hand. Despite their differences, all sharks are important members of the ocean ecosystem and play a vital role in keeping it healthy and balanced.
Sharks and Surfers
Ever since the movie Jaws came out, our toothy neighbors have had trouble with their reputation. People tend to think that if a shark happens to be in the water within a half mile radius then it will make a beeline to bite them in half. This is completely untrue. As a species, they don’t really like to eat humans very much. We’re too bony for them. They also tend to avoid contact with humans, and they’re usually rather wary of us. Even the biggest white shark, Deep Blue, has swam peacefully with humans.
Sharks are bloodthirsty man-eating beasts that often hunt humans for food.
It’s true, sharks are a hazard when you’re in the ocean. It’s ok to have respect for sharks, but don’t let your fear keep you from surfing or enjoying your time in the ocean. Shark attacks are very, very rare. You’re more likely to be killed in an automobile accident on your way to the beach, or struck by lightning while changing into your wetsuit. More people are killed by bees and snakes in the US than sharks.
That said, there are some places where sharks are quite common. Colder, deeper water or certain geographical locations have a greater number of sharks. One of the most popular exotic surf breaks, Jeffrey’s Bay in South Africa, is known to be frequented by the men in the grey suits. Maverick’s in Half Moon Bay, CA is also a known sharky spot.
Burgess, George H. “Reducing the Risk of Shark Attacks.” 1991. :
How do you escape a shark attack?
“Well, obviously you want to get out of there fast,” Burgess said, “but you should try to make your escape as quietly and evenly as possible.” He explained that sharks are attracted to splashing and are likely to be enthused by further activity, so the calmer you can make your panicked retreat, the better. “Of course, you want to do whatever you can to get away quickly if the shark’s following you, whether or not that means splashing,” he added.
What if you witness an attack?
“There are very few cases in which a rescuer suffered while trying to help a victim,” said Burgess. “Actually, helping a victim probably decreases the chances of a second attack, because the additional person may spook the shark and drive it away.” So if your friend is beyond the breakers and rehearsing for the next “Jaws” movie, try to overcome your natural instincts and dive in to help.
I’d like to say that you should not let fear of sharks ruin your enjoyment of the ocean. Many experienced surfers often start feeling “sharky” while out in the water by themselves on a gray, cloudy day. This is quite normal. Some surfers will suppress the feelings, and others will exit the water if their “shark sense” becomes overwhelming. With some experience you’ll know what’s right for you.
It’s also common to see “shadows” in the water around your board. This is caused by the reflective and uneven quality of the water, as well as burns in your vision caused by the sun. I often see shadows and get a little thrill, but it’s important to think realistically.
What to do if you see a shark while surfing
Surfers are no strangers to the ocean and the creatures that inhabit it. While shark attacks on surfers are rare, it’s important to know what to do in case you encounter a shark while surfing. The first and most important thing to do is to remain calm. Do not panic or thrash around in the water, as this can attract the shark’s attention. Slowly and calmly paddle back to shore, keeping your eyes on the shark at all times.
If you’re attacked by a shark, you can do your best to try to fight it off. Several people have successfully fought off sharks by bashing them in the nose. I’m not joking around! Since the shark is usually put off by the boniness of our bodies and the fiberglass of the surfboard, most of the time sharks do not come back for another bite. You can add to its decision not to come back by striking at its nose and eyes as these are sensitive areas.
Shark attack statistics
Despite the rarity of shark attacks on surfers, it’s important to be aware of the statistics. According to the International Shark Attack File, there were 64 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks worldwide in 2022, with 40 of those occurring in the United States. Of those attacks, only 10 were fatal. While the number of shark attacks may seem high, it’s important to remember that millions of people swim and surf in the ocean every year without incident. It’s also worth noting that not all sharks are the same. Some species, such as the great white shark, are responsible for the majority of shark attacks on humans. Other species, such as the nurse shark, are more docile and rarely pose a threat to humans. It’s important to educate yourself on the different species of sharks and their behavior in order to better understand the risks associated with surfing in the ocean.
Well Known Types of Sharks
Sharks are fascinating creatures that come in many different shapes and sizes. This section will explore some of the basic types of sharks that are commonly found in the world’s oceans.
Great White Sharks
Great white sharks are perhaps the most famous of all shark species. They are known for their distinctive appearance, with a large, powerful body and sharp, triangular teeth. Great whites are found in many parts of the world, including the coastal waters of Australia, South Africa, and California. They are apex predators, meaning that they are at the top of the food chain and have few natural enemies. Despite their fearsome reputation, great white sharks are not typically aggressive towards humans and are more likely to attack if they mistake a person for their natural prey.
Hammerhead sharks are named for their distinctive head shape, which looks like a hammer or a T-shaped blade. These sharks are found in warm waters around the world and are known for their excellent vision and sense of smell.
Hammerheads are generally harmless to humans and are not considered a threat.
Tiger sharks are known for their distinctive stripes and are found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. They are known for their aggressive behavior and are responsible for a large number of shark attacks on humans.
Tiger sharks are also known for their varied diet, which includes everything from fish and squid to sea turtles and even garbage.
Bull sharks are found in warm, shallow waters around the world and are known for their aggressive behavior. They are responsible for a large number of shark attacks on humans, as they are often found in areas where people swim and surf. Bull sharks are also unique in that they are able to survive in freshwater rivers and lakes, making them one of the few shark species that can live in both saltwater and freshwater environments.
Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world and can grow up to 40 feet in length. They are found in warm waters around the world and are known for their gentle nature. Whale sharks are filter feeders, meaning that they feed on plankton and small fish by swimming with their mouths open. Despite their massive size, whale sharks are not considered a threat to humans and are often sought out by divers and snorkelers for their unique beauty.
Lesser-Known Types of Sharks
Leopard sharks are a type of ground shark that are found in the Pacific Ocean. They are named for their distinctive leopard-like spots on their skin. They are relatively small, typically growing to around 4-5 feet in length. Leopard sharks are not considered to be a threat to humans and are often found in shallow waters near shorelines. They feed on a variety of small fish and invertebrates.
Goblin sharks are a deep-sea species of shark that are rarely seen by humans due to their habitat. They are known for their unique appearance, with a long protruding snout and sharp teeth. Goblin sharks can grow up to 12 feet in length and feed on a variety of prey, including fish and squid. They are not considered to be a threat to humans due to their deep-sea habitat.
Frilled sharks are a primitive species of shark that are found in deep-sea waters around the world. They are named for their distinctive frilled gills, which are used for respiration. Frilled sharks can grow up to 6 feet in length and feed on a variety of prey, including fish and squid. They are not considered to be a threat to humans due to their deep-sea habitat.
Cookiecutter sharks are a small, deep-sea species of shark that are known for their unique feeding behavior. They use their sharp teeth to take circular bites out of larger animals, leaving behind a distinctive “cookie cutter” shaped wound. Cookiecutter sharks are not considered to be a threat to humans due to their deep-sea habitat.
The cookie-cutter shark is a parasitic shark which attaches itself to larger fish, like the dolphin pictured. This shark is able to inflict severe damage to skin and tissue resulting in a “melon-baller” type of wound. It is often called the “cookie monster of the sea.” pic.twitter.com/MVzHJw3XaD
— Amazing Astronomy (@MAstronomers) June 16, 2021
Angel sharks are a type of ground shark that are found in coastal waters around the world. They are named for their flattened bodies and broad pectoral fins, which give them a distinctive “angelic” appearance. Angel sharks can grow up to 6 feet in length and feed on a variety of prey, including fish and crustaceans. They are not considered to be a threat to humans and are often caught unintentionally by fishermen.
Sharks by Habitat
Sharks can be found in a variety of habitats, from the deep sea to coastal areas and reefs. The different habitats have shaped the evolution of sharks, resulting in unique adaptations that help them survive in their respective environments.
Deep-sea sharks are often found in the abyssal zone, which is the part of the ocean that is deeper than 2,000 meters. These sharks have adapted to living in complete darkness and extreme pressure. Some deep-sea sharks have developed bioluminescence, which allows them to attract prey or communicate with other sharks in the dark. Examples of deep-sea sharks include the bramble shark, cookiecutter shark, and gulper shark.
Reef sharks are found in coral reefs and other shallow, tropical waters. These sharks are typically smaller in size and have slender bodies that allow them to maneuver through the narrow spaces of the reef. Reef sharks are important predators in the ecosystem, helping to regulate the population of other marine species. Examples of reef sharks include the blacktip reef shark, whitetip reef shark, and grey reef shark.
Coastal sharks can be found in the waters near shorelines and estuaries. These sharks are often larger in size and have a more robust body shape than reef sharks. Coastal sharks are known for their impressive hunting abilities and have been known to attack humans. Examples of coastal sharks include the great white shark, tiger shark, and bull shark.
Sharks are easily recognizable due to their unique body shape. Their bodies are streamlined with a pointed snout, five to seven gill slits on the sides of their head, and a large dorsal fin on their back. Most sharks have five to seven fins, including two dorsal fins, a caudal fin, a pair of pectoral fins, and a pair of pelvic fins. Sharks have rough skin covered with dermal denticles, which are small, tooth-like scales that help reduce drag and protect the shark from injury. The denticles are arranged in a specific pattern, which is unique to each species, and can be used to identify sharks.
Sharks have a cartilaginous skeleton, which is lighter and more flexible than a bony skeleton. They have a powerful jaw that is used for biting and tearing prey, and multiple rows of sharp teeth that are constantly replaced throughout their lifetime. Sharks have two types of muscle: red and white. Red muscle is used for prolonged swimming and has a good blood supply, while white muscle is used for short bursts of speed and uses energy from the breakdown of glycogen. Sharks have a highly developed sense of smell, which is used to locate prey, and a lateral line system, which detects changes in water pressure and vibrations. They also have a special organ called the ampullae of Lorenzini, which can detect electrical fields in the water. Overall, the anatomy of sharks is well adapted to their predatory lifestyle, allowing them to efficiently hunt and survive in their marine environment.
Hunting and Feeding Habits
Sharks are carnivorous and have a diverse diet that includes fish, sea mammals, turtles, crustaceans, mollusks, plankton, and krill. Some species are opportunistic feeders, while others have specific prey preferences. For example, the great white shark is known for preying on seals and sea lions, while the whale shark feeds mainly on plankton.
Most sharks prefer to hunt at night and are solitary creatures that swim and hunt alone. However, they may gather in groups during the mating season or in areas with abundant food.
Mating and Reproduction
Sharks have various mating behaviors, ranging from courtship rituals to aggressive mating. Some species mate for life, while others mate with multiple partners. Female sharks typically have a longer gestation period than other fish, and some species can carry their young for up to two years.
Sharks give birth to live young, with some species having litters of up to 100 pups. However, some sharks lay eggs, either externally or internally. The sand tiger shark, for example, has two uteri and can carry up to 50 fertilized eggs at a time, with only one pup surviving in each uterus.
Sharks have complex migration patterns that vary depending on the species and the location. Some species, such as the great white shark, migrate long distances in search of food or breeding grounds. Other species, such as the lemon shark, have a more limited range and remain in a specific area for most of their lives.
Sharks are highly adapted to their environments and have developed unique behaviors and physical characteristics to survive. Understanding their behavior is crucial to their conservation and management, as well as for ensuring human safety in areas where sharks are present.
Sharks play a critical role in maintaining the health of the ocean’s ecosystems. Unfortunately, many species of sharks are threatened by overfishing, habitat loss, and other human activities. In this section, we will discuss the threats to shark populations and the conservation efforts being made to protect these important creatures.
Threats to Shark Populations
Sharks are particularly vulnerable to overfishing because they grow slowly, mature late, and produce few offspring. Many species of sharks are also caught accidentally as bycatch in commercial fishing operations targeting other species. In addition, sharks are often targeted for their fins, which are used in shark fin soup, a delicacy in some parts of the world. Shark finning, the practice of removing a shark’s fins and discarding the rest of the body at sea, is illegal in many countries but still occurs in some places.
Habitat loss is another major threat to shark populations. Coastal development, pollution, and climate change can all have negative impacts on the habitats that sharks rely on. For example, coral reefs, which are important habitats for many species of sharks, are being destroyed at an alarming rate due to rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidification.
Efforts to protect sharks and their habitats are underway around the world. Many countries have implemented regulations to limit the catch of certain shark species or to ban shark finning altogether. For example, the United States has enacted the Shark Conservation Act, which requires that all sharks caught in U.S. waters be brought to shore with their fins naturally attached.
Conservation organizations are also working to raise awareness about the importance of sharks and the threats they face. The Shark Trust, for example, is a UK-based organization that works to promote the conservation of sharks and their habitats through research, education, and advocacy. The Shark Research Institute is another organization that works to promote the conservation of sharks through research, education, and advocacy.
Individuals can also play a role in shark conservation by making informed choices about the seafood they consume and by supporting organizations that work to protect sharks and their habitats. By working together, we can help to ensure that these magnificent creatures continue to thrive in our oceans for generations to come.