Lots of people in this beautiful world think that sharks are scary! Blood-thirsty, raw blooded killers, on a mission to human-hunt! They’re big, fast and scary and have thousands upon thousands of teeth! They lurk in the dark, murky waters, waiting to attack!
You are wrong. Scream your heart out, because sharks are not all like in JAWS. This fascinating family of fish has a lot more going on than Hollywood let on in that epic, life-changing (for sharks) movie.
Read on to find out why sharks aren’t all like the Great white in JAWS. If you think you know everything about these fishies, think again!
Sharks are smaller than your hand
There are anywhere up to 500+ species of shark on planet earth. And sharks are categorized into eight orders. Each species has adapted to live and survive in completely different environments.
Some can walk on land. Some can survive in freshwater rivers. Some live hundreds of meters below the surface of the water. Some glow in the dark! How very very cute and cool. How could you think those sharks are dangerous?
Many people think sharks are scary because they’re huge and intimidating. But the smallest shark in the world is tiny. It was only recently discovered and named this year. It’s 5.5 inches long when it’s an adult. And it’s called an American pocket shark. It could fit in your pocket it’s so small.
The American pocket shark is rivaled only in tininess by the Dwarf lanternshark. It grows a whopping half an inch longer! This shark weighs a negligible half an ounce. That’s 0.015kg. So small, does it even exist?! Does the thought of these little sharks scare you?! I hope not.
They’re the most harmless souls in the universe. What’s more, both of these species glow in the dark. That is the most joyful fact ever. Fish are friends, not food, especially if they’re friends who glow in the dark. So as you can see, some species of shark are not like the ones you know from Hollywood and JAWS!
People also think that sharks are human-hunters and out to attack. But how many of the shark species in the world actually attack humans? It’s less than 3%. Only 33 species have ever been known to harm people.
And if you exclude the anomalies, like one-off or freak encounters? It’s only 15 species of sharks that could even be considered a threat. Within that, the vast majority of shark attacks have been human provoked, or due to negligence.
There are only three species of shark which you should take extra care of being around. Bulls, Tigers, and Great whites.
Having said that, people dive with these animals on a daily basis around the world. We dive with sharks here in Indonesia. And all around the world, it’s done in a safe way! Go with experienced guides who have an understanding of shark behavior. And then shark diving is an amazing experience. Sharks and humans can coexist in harmony.
Sharks swim slower than you walk
Some people think sharks are scary because they’re fast and furious! But not all sharks are fast. Greenland sharks swim at a grand old speed of 1.6mph, or 2.5kmph. That’s slower than you walk. Humans walk, on average, around 4mph or 6kmph. No chance of a shark bite from something that slow.
Even the biggest fish in the world, the Whale shark, only swims at around 5kmph. It may be large, but it’s docile. They’re filter feeders, and their whole diet is based on tiny krill and phytoplankton. Not fast or dangerous at all!
On that note, you needn’t worry about more species of shark anyway. Humans would never enter most species’ habitats. Greenland sharks live 2000m below sea level in waters that are near freezing.
Sharks think you taste terrible
Sharks have existed in this world for over 450 million years. That almost feels unquantifiable it’s so long! Compare that to dinosaurs which evolved only 240 million years ago. Modern humans evolved a puny 300,000 years ago. That’s a drop in the ocean (excuse the pun!) compared with how long sharks have inhabited the planet.
Sharks make ancient fossils look like the new kid at school. The Goblin shark hasn’t changed a single bit for 100 million years. So do you think you have ever evolved to be a part of sharks’ diet? Absolutely no siree.
Sharks will eat anything though. That’s one thing that Hollywood may have been right about. Many species of sharks are apex predators. And that comes with a certain level of confidence or arrogance! They can usually risk going in for a nibble.
So if you look like food, they will try and taste you, just for good measure. Do you think you hear about loads of shark attacks with surfers? That’s because a human on a surfboard looks identical to a turtle going up for air. Or a seal in distress at the surface of the water. So then you might get a shark bite.
It’s rare that in shark attacks a whole human is consumed though. Because you taste bad! Usually, it’s an arm or a leg that’s nibbled and then spat out. Sharks have spent millions of years evolving to eat fish, seals, turtles, etc.. i.e. creatures of the ocean. Not humans, who by the way, have only started being in the ocean recently compared to the history of sharks. Not enough time for sharks to evolve to know they taste a little unsavory!
Sharks aren’t going to kill you: hot dogs are!
Sharks are not as dangerous as people for some reason make out. Thanks, Hollywood and JAWS! What if it’s all wrong, and we’re the bad guys? It’s true. We’re the bad guys. People slaughter over 100 million sharks a year.
Let’s do the math here. That’s THREE sharks every SECOND of the day. All year long. Because of humans, around one-third of all sharks, rays, and chimeras are at risk of extinction. And that’s despite so many organizations working towards increasing marine protected areas.
We kill sharks for shark-fin soup, a bizarre delicacy in many parts of the world. The process is so grotesque, it doesn’t bear thinking about. People bring them onboard their boat, alive, and cut off the shark fin. Then they throw the rest of their ‘useless’ body back into the ocean, where the shark dies a slow and painful death. Yummy right?! Yikes.
What’s worse? Shark fin has no taste or nutritional value. It’s a thing because it’s a thing. You think sharks are crazy. This sounds like it’s humans who are crazy! Fish are friends, not food. Statistics say we’re more likely to bite a shark than get a shark bite.
Anyway, enough about the dangers of humans. Wanna know what else could hurt you? Over 200,000 people are hurt by flip flops each year. I, for one, am only going to wear sneakers from now on! That’s versus less than 100 shark attacks.
And notably statistics show that over one-third of those attacks are provoked! And of those attacks, only five were fatal. There are so many more things that are more likely to harm you than sharks, we have a whole other blog about it!
Coconuts, icicles, champagne corks, hot dogs, your bed. Vending machines. You name it, it’s probably more dangerous than a shark. You are over 100 times more likely to die from falling out of your bed than a shark bite. Think about that for a second.
And we haven’t even started on dangerous animals. Do you think sharks are dangerous? Think again. Dogs kill 25,000 people a year. Dogs are a humans best friend, you say? (We love dogs, by the way. We’re making a point.)
Crocodiles kill 1,000 people a year. Mosquitos kill 725,000 people a year! Those tiny things?! Yes. And the most shocking of them all? Humans kill 475,000 humans a year. And most homicides are between people who know each other. So we think it might be safer in the ocean, where the fish are friends!
Are you still scared of sharks?
So there you have it. Sharks aren’t all like in JAWS. Some are tiny, and cute, and glow in the dark. Some are slow. Some only eat teeny tiny little krill. And none of them eat humans!
Let us know if you’ve ever been swimming with sharks! Better yet, come and join us in the Gili Islands and dive with sharks yourself. Then you’ll see what they’re really like. Graceful and beautiful creatures of the ocean! And you can do your bit to protect them. It’s worth saving sharks because sharks are important to our ecosystem. 💙
Written by: Tash Allen