If you have ever taken a swim in the ocean, the thought has probably crossed your mind: Are there any sharks nearby? More than any other marine animal, sharks seem to hold our attention, to say the least. Though attacks are statistically rare, many people remain frightened of sharks and dread the possibility of meeting one in person. But beyond their reputation of dangerousness, sharks are fascinating animals, both in terms of their biology and the place they hold in our popular culture.
Here are five fun facts to chew on about these captivating carnivores:
- That’s one fast fish. Most sharks are fast swimmers, but some species are exceptionally quick. Mako sharks, for instance, smaller cousins of the great white shark, can reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour.
- An electrifying animal. One of the most unique attributes of sharks is a series of jellyfilled pores that cover their heads and allow them to detect the natural electrical fields emitted by other animals. Some species of sharks can detect fields of less than 1 nanovolt per square centimeter, more than 5 million times greater than anything a human could feel. This sense allows sharks to detect prey hidden in sand or other out-of-sight places.
- Sharks on camera. Underwater experts Ron and Valerie Taylor made history in 1971 when they filmed the first-ever underwater 35 mm recording of the majestic- but-deadly great white shark near Dangerous Reef, off the South Australian coast. The event was chronicled in their documentary “Blue Water, White Death,” which boasted a $5 million box office debut in 1971, a landmark at that time. The film was brought to DVD for the first time this year by MGM Home Entertainment.
- A living fossil. In January 2007, a rare frilled shark was found swimming in Japan’s Awashima Marine Park. This species of shark, believed to have changed very little since prehistoric times, usually swims thousands of feet below the water’s surface, so live sightings of the animal are exceedingly rare.
- A big bite of the box office. Steven Spielberg’s movie “Jaws” was the first film to earn more than $100 million at the box office, making it the first true blockbuster. The film made use of animatronic sharks as well as footage of live great white sharks shot by Ron and Valerie Taylor, the same husband and wife duo who filmed “Blue Water, White Death.”