It seems like sharks have been everywhere for the past couple of weeks.
What with Shark Week, shark sightings in British waters, new fossils of Megalodon teeth being discovered and (most importantly) the release of The Meg, starring Jason Statham, in which he must save the crew of a sunken deep-sea submersible from an unimaginable threat – a 75-foot Megalodon.
To celebrate the return of sharks in the news and in theatres, loaded is taking a look and some of the most interesting and strange species of sharks that once existed and exist today.
As the name suggests, the Megalodon was a big shark – in fact, the largest shark to ever exist, reaching 54 feet long (3 times the size of a Great White) and its diet consisted of other massive creatures, including giant prehistoric whales, porpoises, and giant sea turtles. There is much speculation (mostly from a fake Discovery Channel documentary) that the shark may still exist in deep uncharted waters, but given the fact that the Megalodon preferred warm waters this is very unlikely and as most life in deep waters tends to be smaller and more specialised, a Megalodon might look a little out of place in the depths of the ocean.
Among all the species of sharks out there, the Goblin shark is definitely not the prettiest, though it fits in right at home with the other deep-sea creatures found in the 100m depths. It is often referred to as a living fossil, as it is the only living member of the Mitsukurinidae family, whose lineage is around 125 million years old. It is also the shark that most resembled the alien from Alien, as its jaw is able to snap forward to grab its prey, which is very useful to the slow-swimming Goblin.
Shortfin Mako Shark
You might think this shark doesn’t look too scary, at least not compared to others out there. However, the Shortfin Mako shark has a particularly ferocious set of teeth, using them to tare off chunks of their prey when they attack. It is also the fastest shark in the world, able to swim by to 46mph in short bursts and it can use this speed to jump up to 9 meters in height. Sadly its speed has made the shark a popular target for sport and commercial fishing, which has classed it as vulnerable to extinction in recent years.
This little guy is the smallest in the Hammerhead shark family, growing up to 30 to 48 inches long and has a much narrower head than its cousins that is much more rounded at the front (which is why it’s sometimes referred to as the shovelhead shark. What is really interesting about these sharks though is that they are one of the few types of sharks that eat plant life, with scientists recently discovering that up 50% of the Bonnethead sharks diet consists of seagrass.
With their long saw-like snouts, Sawsharks look pretty lethal and they are – to squids and small fishes – to humans, however, they’re completely harmless and generally, they prefer sand or mud bottoms as habitats, so you’re not likely to run into them. These sharks get around as subspecies of the shark can be found in the Indian Ocean, the West Pacific and even the Caribbean. From looking at them you may wonder if they are related to the Sawfish. As the Sawshark is a shark and the Sawfish is a ray, no they are not related, though both utilize the electroreceptors to detect the electric field given off by buried prey.
For those of you who find sharks quite frightening, you can at least take comfort in the fact that these sea creatures (who effectively had a buzz saw for a mouth) won’t appear in any deep-sea dives you take. The Helicoprion is an interesting case, it managed to survive the Permian-Triassic extinction (which wiped out 96% of life on Earth) but died 50 years later. The only fossils we currently have of the Helicoprion are of the teeth and so scientists are not entirely sure what it ate or how it killed its prey and it’s that an unsettling thought.
THE MEG is out in UK cinemas now