Category Archives: Marine knowledge

A Shout out to Sharks

They are the most feared, yet the most misunderstood, of all marine animals – apex predators that pre-date the dinosaurs by an estimated 200 million years.

Of the almost 500 species of sharks swimming in our oceans, only a handful are the complex killers we hear about on the news – the majority have a far more sensitive side.

The reality is sharks don’t have a mean bone in their body… in fact they have no bones at all! Their skeletons are comprised of cartilage which is flexible and lightweight – allowing some to reach speeds of close to 100 kilometres an hour.

But while their sleek, race car bodies have helped them to survive for so long, ironically, it is also contributing to their downfall. Shark cartilage is used in beauty treatments and alternate medicines – a part of the reason 100 million of them are killed every year by humans.

It seems we have a love/hate relationship with these fish – while movies like Jaws are enough to keep some of us high and dry on the sand during a trip to the beach, others go to great lengths to absorb nutrients from sharks, adopting an eat or be eaten approach.

Shark fin soup is a delicacy in Asia and demand for the prestige product has led to the decimation of some species including the scalloped hammerhead. The process of removing the dorsal fin from a live animal is illegal in Australian waters, but the practise is difficult to police.

But what many of us miss in our obsession with sharks, is some of their truly extraordinary abilities. Unlike humans, they breathe through gills, so their nostrils are purely dedicated to smelling. Their sense is so refined, they can detect one drop of blood in 100 litres of water. Even more astounding is they can identify which of their two nostrils picked up the scent to determine the direction to swim to track their prey.

But it’s not just smell they’re tuned into – their ability to pick up on electrical impulse and vibrations is so acute, they can sense a Double A battery from 3 kilometres away. And while these skills are designed to help them locate food, some species can survive for up to 3 months between meals – the ultimate fasting regime!

Apart from their unparalleled skill in sensing their next feast, sharks are also well equipped to chow down their catch. They are known for their multiple rows of razor sharp teeth – and it appears they have an endless supply. While humans have one set of large teeth to last a lifetime, many species of sharks can grow tens of thousands, quickly replacing any that have gone blunt and fallen out.

And while this may seem terrifying to us, the reality is we are not on their menu. Attacks on humans are generally a case of mistaken identity – surfers are the most common target, mimicking the shape of a seal on the surface. While it may be of little comfort, statistically, you are more likely to be killed by a falling coconut or a flying champagne cork than to be taken by a shark.

Ocean Life Education runs a Shark Discovery program that helps to separate fact from fiction when it comes to the most feared fish in the sea. It is one of our most popular presentations as we explore all the fascinating features that make these apex predators such effective hunters yet strangely vulnerable at the same time.

When all the hype and hysteria is removed, it is easy to see how sharks play a vital role in maintaining balance in the marine eco-system. Deep down, (and also on the surface of their snout!), they really are quite sensitive.

Celebrate Seaweek with Ocean Life

Seaweek 4-10 Sept

WHEN: 4-10 SEPTEMBER

THEME: THE OCEAN AND LIFE IN THE OCEAN SHAPE THE FEATURES OF EARTH

Seaweek is Australia’s major national public awareness campaign to educate and encourage an appreciation of our oceans. 

At Ocean Life Education, there are a few times each year where we relish in the global appreciation for the marine environment and our wondrous ocean – and Seaweek is one of them.

This year’s Seaweek theme is the second of the Ocean Literacy Principles: The ocean and life in the ocean shape the features of Earth.

It focuses on how the ocean shapes our Earth through sedimentary rocks, sea level changes, erosion in coastal areas.

Our sand and beach areas consist of tiny animals and bits of plants, rocks and minerals.

You can find out more about these fundamental concepts on the Ocean Literary Principle 2 website.

At Ocean Life Education, our mission is to inspire as many young Australian’s to appreciate and care for our environment for the preservation and protection of our oceans and marine habitats.

Our seas and oceans are our biggest wonder of the Earth and it’s our obligation to be curious and protective.

Celebrate the Sea with us this Seaweek from 4-10 September.

Book your live marine animal incursion and let’s educate and inspire our next generation of ocean defenders!

Find out about our Programs or Contact Us to book your next program.

More information: www.aaee.org.au/seaweek