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Shark Myths

Most sharks are harmful to people.

Untrue! Of the 350 or so shark species, about 80% are unable to hurt people or rarely encounter people.

Sharks prefer human blood.

False! Most sharks don't appear to be especially interested in the blood of mammals as opposed to fish blood.

Sharks must roll of their sides to bite.

No! Sharks attack their prey in whichever way is most convenient, and they can protrude their jaws to bite prey items in front of their snouts.

Sharks are not discriminating eaters and scavenge the sea.

Wrong! Most sharks prefer to eat certain types of invertebrates, fish, or other animals. Some sharks eat mainly fish. Others eat other sharks or marine mammals. Some sharks are even plankton-eaters.

Sharks eat continuously.

Preposterous! Sharks eat periodically depending upon their metabolism and the availability of food. For example, juvenile lemon sharks eat less than 2% of their body weight per day.

Whale sharks, the largest species of sharks, are voracious predators.

Incorrect! Whale sharks, which are the largest fish that ever lived, are plankton feeders like the great whales, thus the name.

The great white shark is a common, abundant species found off most beaches visited by humans.

No! Great whites are relatively uncommon large predators that prefer cooler waters. In some parts of their range, great whites are close to being endangered.

Sharks are not found in freshwater.

Forget it! A specialized osmoregulatory system enables the bull shark to cope with dramatic changes in salinity--from the freshwaters of some rivers to the highly saline waters of the ocean.

All sharks have to swim constantly.

Misconceived! Some sharks can respire by pumping water over their gills through opening and closing their mouths while at rest on the bottom.

Most sharks cruise at high speed when they swim.

Invalid! Although some sharks may swim at bursts of over 20 knots (23 miles per hour), most sharks swim very slowly at cruising speeds of less than 5 knots (5.75 miles per hour).

Sharks have poor vision.

Erroneous! Sharks' eyes, which are equipped to distinguish colors, employ a lens up to seven times as powerful as a human's.

Sharks are hard to kill.

Off base! Stress of capture weakens a shark, and so some sharks are easily killed in hook-and-line or net fishing.

Sharks have peanut-sized brains and are incapable of learning.

Fallacious! Sharks' relatively large and complex brains are comparable in size to those of supposedly more advanced animals like mammals and birds. Sharks also can be trained.

A shark is a shark is a shark.

Misconstrued! There is no "typical" shark. The more than 350 species all differ in habitat, lifestyle, and body form.

Shark meat is poisonous to people.

Wrong! Although there have been some reports of people being poisoned by shark meat, the meat from the majority of sharks is edible and delicious when properly handled and prepared.

Sharks are trash fish.

No way! Sharks are a critical part of marine ecosystems, a source for knowledge to help the human condition, and the basis for a valuable fishery.