4 common myths about sharks debunked

4 common myths about sharks debunked
PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

With the earliest known sharks dating back over 420 million years, sharks have had it rough over the last few centuries. They not only face endangerment due to humans hunting them for their prized fins but also constantly have to deal with their unfortunate bad rep as "man-eaters".

For the 30th anniversary of Discovery Channel's Shark Week series, it is setting the record straight for these often-misunderstood underwater creatures by debunking the most common #fakenews about sharks.

1. HUMANS = FRESH FOOD

While almost all species of sharks are carnivorous, it doesn't automatically mean that human = fresh food. In fact, they actually find humans quite unpalatable! A shark's diet typically consists of fish or other sea creatures like squid or clams with some sharks preferring plankton.

Sharks don't roam the ocean looking for humans to attack. Scientists and organisations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) agree that when sharks do attack humans, it's usually a case of mistaken identity where they confuse humans with dolphins or seals.

2. SHARKS ARE ALWAYS ON THE OFFENCE

Like all species, not all sharks are the same. Despite movies like Jaws portraying sharks as aggressive creatures who are constantly on the hunt, there are those like the whale shark (the largest fish in the ocean!) who are gentle giants. These whale sharks spend most of their time "hunting" plankton. Sharks also sometimes investigate unfamiliar objects by taking a test bite, using their sensitive teeth and gums to figure out what the oddly shaped item floating in the sea is.

3. SHARKS HAVE REGENERATIVE FINS

Over 100 million sharks are killed annually by humans and a large reason for this is for their fins. Contrary to the belief that a shark can regrow its fin, sharks who have had their fins cut off and are thrown back into the ocean will sadly either drown or be eaten by other sharks.

4. SHARK ATTACKS ARE COMMON

Statistics tells us a different story. Sharks on average kill 6 people annually while 150 people a year die from having a coconut fall on their head. That's 15 times more coconut-related fatalities yearly compared to shark attacks.

Discovery Channel’s Shark Week premieres Monday (July 23) on Singtel Channel 202.

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