So that you discovered every thing you recognize about sharks from a film? – Harvard Gazette

“They’ve had a troublesome time in the previous couple of years,” mentioned George Lauder, the Henry Bryant Bigelow Professor of Ichthyology at Harvard. Sharks face a warming ocean, ocean acidification, lack of prey, and plenty of extra dire challenges, Lauder mentioned in his introductory remarks.

“That is unhealthy information, nevertheless it’s not a misplaced trigger,” Shiffman mentioned. “We might help sharks.”

However why ought to we? The best cause, by far, is that sharks are important cogs in ocean ecosystems, Shiffman mentioned. Ocean meals webs are complicated and weak; eradicating a predator can have disproportionate impacts, doubtlessly inflicting the entire system to unravel. Sharks even have uncommon biology and talents. Their skeletons are constructed from cartilage, not bone, which can assist them heal sooner. (Attempt to bend your forearm, Shiffman mentioned to his viewers. Then crinkle your ears. That’s the distinction between bone and cartilage).

Sharks’ imaginative and prescient and sense of odor are higher than people’, and so they have a way we lack: As a result of sharks can detect electromagnetic fields, they’ll spot prey hidden beneath the sand by sensing the electrical energy of their beating hearts. The hammerhead shark’s lengthy, flat head is sort of a metallic detector, designed to scan the seabed for heartbeats as a substitute of misplaced cash. Sharks additionally use the Earth’s magnetic discipline to navigate from a favourite seaside to a particular island with out getting misplaced at sea.

As well as, many species possess different helpful traits. Some have biofluorescent mouths, which lure prey to swim proper in. (“That’s snack time objectives,” Shiffman mentioned.) Some glow in the dead of night. The goblin shark can hyperextend its jaw to higher gobble up prey. The thresher shark makes use of its tail like a whip, making a shock wave that stuns its meals. And the Greenland shark eats polar bears and might dwell for greater than 400 years.

“You typically consider sharks as being quick and highly effective,” mentioned Shiffman. However his favourite shark, the sandbar shark, is gradual and lazy. Many misconceptions, he mentioned, will be tied to Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws,” which portrayed sharks as evil monsters that hunt people. “Spielberg has lots to reply for,” Shiffman mentioned. “Shark assaults are unbelievably uncommon and unlikely.” About 38 % of reported shark assaults in Australia are false, he mentioned.

Shiffman wrote his ebook to dispel these misconceptions and supply sensible methods folks might help save sharks. Some who need to assist, he mentioned, are doing extra hurt than good. Teams of individuals Shiffman calls “macho cowboy fool scuba divers” take photographs of themselves using, hugging, and kissing sharks on the face. “Don’t do this,” Shiffman mentioned.

Through the question-and-answer portion of the discuss, viewers as younger as 4 years outdated requested why some sharks are bubble-gum pink (the reply: they dwell the place mild can’t attain, in order that hue makes them near-invisible) and whether or not shark-deterrence applied sciences truly work. “Essentially the most charitable factor I can say is that a few of them work typically beneath sure situations,” Shiffman mentioned.

One viewers member requested whether or not Shiffman took a dip off Cape Cod, the place he’d given a ebook discuss the week prior. Shiffman responded with an anecdote: He was standing on a seaside with a colleague who pointed to a spot the place the ocean turned from mild brown to black, the mark of a pointy drop-off. See that spot? His colleague requested. We’ve a sensor there that detected an grownup nice white shark on the market 99 % of final week.

“So, yeah,” Shiffman mentioned. “I didn’t go swimming.”