Let’s be honest: Sharks seem like the closest you can get to real-life blockbuster monsters.
They may not quite live up to the legend of “Jaws,” but with great whites growing up to 20 feet long and most species tricked out with multiple rows of teeth, they’re pretty intense.
But tales of their horror have been greatly exaggerated.
Sharks, though incredible predators, aren’t much of a threat to humans. In fact, humans are more likely to kill sharks than the other way around. According to one study, people are responsible for the deaths of about 100 million sharks a year.
For Shark Awareness Day, take a look at some other surprising shark facts.
They are fighting global warming better than your metal straws
Sharks are doing more work than even the most woke among us. At the top of the marine food chain, they are biologically charged with keeping prey populations in check.
For example, they feed on animals such as sea turtles, who consume huge amounts of sea grass. Sea grass stores large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. But when the turtles’ population expands at an unsustainable rate, this essential carbon storage is threatened. Sharks, the sea turtles’ natural predators, are the only ones that can keep this in check. But that’s a hard job to do when humans kill sharks in astronomical numbers.
They outlived the dinos
Sharks not only lived on after the age of dinosaurs, they originated in a time before those giants even walked the Earth. Shark fossils have been found from as far back as 450 million years, indicating that they were around during the Silurian Period, an early part of the Paleozoic era. This was 190 million years before dinos even appeared.
They’d give a dentist nightmares, but they won’t chow down on you
With an average of 45 teeth and seven backup rows, a shark’s mouth would give anyone nightmares. Sharks lose up to 30,000 teeth over their lifetimes, which is why the ocean floor is littered with them.
Their teeth and jaw are quite a nasty duo, with a great white shark has the bite power of nearly 17,790 newtons (about 4,000 pounds per square inch). However, these bad boys rarely find their way to human flesh. You have about 1 in 3,748,067 odds of being the victim of a shark attack.
Their scales help them move faster
Basically, sharks are covered in teeth, even on the outside. They have “dermal denticles,” ergonomic scales that help them glide through the water with greater ease and speed. These scales help shift the current around the sharks to streamline their movement.
Fish are food, not friends — but sharks still don’t eat a lot of them
“Finding Nemo” might have tried to tell us otherwise, but science says that’s a lie. Sharks actually eat up to 3 pounds of fish a day and are opportunistic feeders. They can use their sense of smell and hearing to locate prey, as well as using the “lateral lines” on their bodies to feel vibrations in the water.
They have long gestation periods, and some breed where they were born
This one is more weird than mind-boggling, but it’s just novel enough to be worth noting. According to a long-term study on lemon sharks, this particular species is known to return to the location of their birth to mate.
And if you think nine months is bad, then the 3½ years a common frilled shark spends pregnant is the worst of all horrors. Shark gestation periods can vary from five months to a handful of years, and some sharks can store sperm for months at a time.
The only things that rival their noses are their ears
Not only are sharks notorious for their acute sense of smell, their hearing is also insanely powerful. Sharks can hear prey up to a kilometer away, even the itty-bitty sounds, like water disturbances and muscle contractions.
Humans, while lacking the 7 rows of teeth, are still worse
For every human killed in a shark attack, humans kill an estimated 2 million sharks. In fact, the US average for yearly shark attacks is 19, with one fatality every 2 years. By comparison, lightning strikes kill 37 people annually.