NATIONWIDE — One of the more iconic movies to ever grace the silver screen is the 1975 film, “Jaws.” Sharks have held a deep fascination and fear for many.
There are a lot of myths that surround the maritime creatures. In honor of Shark Week, we will debunk some of the myths.
1. All sharks are the same
This is definitely a myth. According to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), there are more than 400 different species of sharks! Sharks live in a variety of habitats that go from the immediate coast to the deepest parts of the ocean. And while there is no such thing as a shark that is an herbivore, the diversity in diet also varies greatly. Lastly, there are great size variations among sharks. The dwarf dogshark can be as small as 16 centimeters while the whale shark can measure as long as 12 meters!
Fun Fact: Some sharks are diadromous! This means that they can migrate between both salt AND freshwater habitats!
2. Sharks have to swim constantly to stay alive
Yes, it’s true… Many species of shark do swim constantly. This is done in order to keep oxygen-rich water flowing over their gills. That being said, not all sharks have to do this. Some use a pumping motion to pass water through their respiratory systems. Some sharks can even actively do so while sitting on the sea floor!
Fun Fact: Unlike bony fish, sharks can move vertically with ease due to a lack of swim bladder. They rely on lift from their large pectoral fins, similar to the way an airplane’s wings work!
3. Shark attacks are a common thing
Actually, no. According to the Florida Museum of Natural History, the risk of a shark attack is very low. The museum attributes this to increased public awareness, beach safety and medical treatment. In fact, your chances of being attacked by a shark are 1 in 3,748,067. You have a greater chance of being involved in a train crash or an air/space accident than being attacked by a shark.
Fun Fact: Florida had the highest number of unprovoked shark attacks in the U.S. in 2020, with a total of 16. The second highest in the nation was Hawaii, which had five.
4. Sharks can detect a single droplet of blood in the water
Sharks do not have an omnipotent sixth sense when it comes to detecting blood. Sharks do have a sensitive olfactory system, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will attack at the slightest sniff of a teeny bit of blood. AMNH says that the ability to detect depends on the species of shark. For example, a lemon shark can detect what is on average of ten drops in an average home swimming pool, while others can detect prey at one part per 10 billion (or the equivalent of an Olympic-sized swimming pool).
Fun Fact: A shark’s large nostrils are used only for smelling, but never for breathing!
5. Sharks’ fins can grow back
This is unequivocally not true. If a shark’s fin is cut off, it will drown, could be eaten by other sharks, or bleed to death. In a practice known as “shark finning,” hunters pull sharks on board their boats, cut the fins off, and then throw them back into the water. According to the Humane Society International, humans kill approximately 100 million sharks annually. Some cultures eat shark fin as a delicacy. However, the cruel death sustained by this practice is leading to decreased numbers of the various species of shark, including some that are endangered such as the Scalloped Hammerhead and the Great Hammerhead. There are no benefits to shark fin and are reported to be without flavor.
(Not So) Fun Fact: Products made from shark prove a public health risk as they may contain dangerous levels of mercury.
To learn more about reducing your risk of a shark attack and other shark-related statistics, visit the website for the Florida Museum of Natural History.