It’s that time of year! The 27th year of Shark Week premieres tonight on the Discovery Channel!
In its first year (1988), the event nearly doubled Discovery’s normal prime-time rating average, and every year since it has continued to grow. Last year, Shark Week was watched by 53.17 million total viewers and ranked as Discovery’s most social prgramming event to date with 4.3 million @SharkWeek tweets, nearly 3.4 million video streams on the network’s website, and 21.8 million people reached via Facebook.
In honor of tonight’s Shark Week premiere, we have 27 fun facts for you about sharks from Oceana.
Shark Fun Facts
- If you ever get close enough to kiss a shark (not recommended), you’re likely to see small black dots around its snout called ampullae of Lorenzini. These small, jelly-filled pores allow sharks to detect the weak electric fields produced by other animals, a powerful sense called electroreception.
- Dusky sharks have a gestation period that can range from 16 to 24 months, meaning a female dusky may carry her fetuses for up to two years; that is more than twice the gestation period of humans.
- The dusky shark is part of the order Carcharhiniformes, or ground sharks. These sharks have a clear lower eyelid—called a nictitating membrane—to protect their eyes when feeding.
- In 2011, a group of scientists discovered that dusky sharks have DNA ―zip codes‖ showing where the sharks were born. The scientists said they could use these zip codes to monitor the origin of sharks targeted by the shark fin trade.
- Unlike bony fish, sharks don’t have swim bladders to maintain buoyancy. Instead, they rely on oil in their livers.
- Sawfish use their rostrum, a saw-like snout, to detect the minute electrical signals from prey and ―club‖ fish—stunning or killing them before they are eaten. (Sawfish are related to sharks, rays and skates.)
- The teeth on the sawfish’s snout are not real teeth, but modified scales. A sawfish’s true teeth are located inside its mouth, on the fish’s underside.
- The whale shark may live up to 150 years, making it one of the longest-living creatures on Earth.
- The smallest sharks, the dwarf lantern shark and pygmy shark, are only 6 inches long.
- Swell sharks swallow water to increase their size so they can intimidate predators.
- The jaws of a large shark are about twice as powerful as the jaws of a lion and can generate up to 40,000 pounds per square inch of pressure in a single bite.
- Shark meat has an unpopular image as food, so fish markets and chefs prefer to call it rock salmon, rock eel, huss or flake.
- Port Jackson sharks lay eggs that have a corkscrew shape.
- Basking sharks suck in more than 10,000 quarts (or 10,000 large Nalgene bottles) of plankton-filled water in one hour.
- A common misconception about sharks is that they never stop swimming. This is true of some sharks, but other species use their cheek muscles to pull water through their gills.
- Sharks’ eyes are on the sides of their heads, so they have an amazingly wide sight line spanning nearly 360 degrees.
- Sharks have highly tuned inner ears that help them hear their prey from a distance of up to two city blocks away.
- Sharks can sense injured fish, which make infrasonic (low frequency) sounds in the water. These sounds are too low for humans to hear, but sharks use them to locate easy prey.
- A shark’s tooth-shaped scales allow water to pass over the shark’s body more efficiently, reducing drag and repelling barnacles and algae. Humans have used this speedy, self-cleaning design to improve things from boat hulls to Olympic swimsuits.
- The cookiecutter shark (Isistius brasiliensis) is a master of camouflage. The shark’s underside glows, except for a small strip on its neck that looks like a much smaller fish. Predators mistake this strip for a snack, but quickly become the hunted when the cookiecutter bites a round chunk out of their flesh and swims away.
- Some sharks can glow in the dark using light-emitting organs called photospheres.
- In terms of body temperature, most sharks are only as warm as the water around them. However, a small handful of species (including white sharks and shortfin makos) have built-in eye heaters that may improve eyesight and protect from changes in water temperature.
- Sharks never run out of teeth. They have new ones on a ―conveyor belt,‖ at the ready to move up and replace any that become lost during feeding. Some sharks can produce over 20,000 teeth in their lifetimes.
- Sharks have existed almost unchanged for 400 million years – long before the dinosaurs – but are now threatened by human activities such as fishing.
- The bluntnose sixgill shark can dive as deep as 7,550 feet, or the length of more than five Empire State Buildings.
- Baby sharks are called pups, male sharks are called bulls and female sharks are just called females.
- Salmon sharks are the world’s fastest sharks and can swim up to 55 miles per hour. That’s twice as fast as Usain Bolt’s top speed on land.
Be sure to catch Shark Week‘s premiere tonight at 8pm EST on Discovery Channel!
Fun Facts Credit: Oceana