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Discovery Magazine 3/1/2000

Shark Facts

by  Jim Estabrook

Sharks are truly remarkable creatures. Their range from small enough to hold in your hand (Like the spined pygmy shark) to more than sixty feet long (or about the same size as a common school bus- like the whale shark). Some of the largest sharks are relatively harmless and eat only plankton (microscopic plants and animals), while others. Like the mako shark, may be smaller yet are vicious meat-eaters that swallow their prey whole.

                Sharks are extremely interesting animals for another reason, too. Yep, no bones about ‘em. That’s right, sharks have no bones; their skeletons are composed entirely of cartilage and teeth. Cartilage is a rubbery, flexible material that enables sharks to maneuver easily. Their teeth, on the other hand, are designed so their prey doesn’t escape easily. Some sharks have as many as five rows of teeth! On occasion, when several sharks start attacking their food all at once, they engage in what is referred to as a feeding frenzy. When this happens, the sharks might even bite each other!

                There are approximately 350 species of sharks, most of which live in salt-water environments. The bull shark, however, has been known to venture into fresh water rivers and streams. Some sharks like great white and basking shark roam freely in the open oceans of the world. Others, like the wobbegong, zebra horn shark, and angel shark live near the ocean floor. Sharks live in waters practically every temperature. Hammerheads, bull sharks, and tiger sharks like warm water best. Mako, Thresher, and blue sharks prefer cooler waters. Dogfish, Greenland, and goblin sharks live in really cold water like those around Iceland and Alaska. Some sharks are regional-that is, they stay in the same area their entire lives. Others are global travelers, swimming from ocean to ocean as they make their rounds. Sharks are unique animals that are well equipped for survival in their own environments. It is easy to see God’s wonderful design in these amazing creatures of the sea.

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