Discovery Channel has been doing Shark Week for more than two decades now. Yes, the network dedicates 7 days of precious programming each year to shows about sharks. Actually, the shows are more about folks who are sufficiently bonkers to drop into the water and tease known man-eaters. The sharks are fun to watch too.
All for entertainment.
Sharks are misunderstood. These fish are among the many organisms on the planet that are facing a bleak future due to exploitation and perhaps climate change. They scare the crap out of us, but we are more likely to die when we get in our car for a drive to town than from a shark attack at the beach. Sharks have more to fear of us than us of them.
But sometimes they get us back.
Shark attacks do happen. And when they do, the effect is typically fairly disturbing. The thought of a chunk of your body being lopped off and digested by a cool-blooded fish is sobering and perhaps a bit titillating. Shark Week shows the grisly pictures of the scarred and delimbed survivors – deformed reminders of mysterious encounters with death from below.
Some shark facts:
1. They sense electrical fields in the water using specialized sensory organs in their heads. This is why they attack metal shark cages. It probably smells tasty to them.
2. They do not have bones. Their skeletons are made of cartilage, like the stuff shaping your ears. Bones are reserved for more advanced fishes and terrestrial critters, like us.
3. The tiny scales on shark’s skin reduce drag by enhancing turbulent flow. In fact, these scales have inspired new generations of suits used by competitive swimmers.
4. Sharks are smart and learn how to capture prey through life.
5. The low reproductive rates of sharks make them particularly susceptible to population collapse due to harvest.
6. Many sharks give birth to live young.
7. Sharks do not go all Jaws on your butt and chase down your boat, even if you are a bonkers, blood-thirsty Ahab chasing his white whale.
I get the allure, but I beg Discovery Channel to dissuade any viewers from believing that any of the folks chasing the sharks are doing so for science. The dude on his surfboard hanging out next to a stuffed turtle is not conducting a valid study of diet preference. Lucky for him, the shark chose the stuffed turtle. But I beg him not to say this proves that sharks prefer turtles over surfers. After all, he didn’t give the shark enough time to discover that he was far tastier.