PINE KNOLL SHORES — The NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores has been celebrating Shark Week, which lasted July 10-16.
It was a time to educate the public the importance sharks play in our ocean. They are key players in maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems. Sustainable seafood is one way to help maintain that balance and keep the ocean healthy for sharks and other marine animals.
North Carolina has around 28 shark species that can be found inshore and around 50 species in offshore waters at different times throughout the year. The Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium houses three types of sharks: sandbar, sand tiger and nurse.
Movies and television have given sharks a bad name. Here are some myths and facts that educators at the aquarium want to share:
MYTH – Sharks are man-eaters looking for any chance to attack.
FACT – Sharks aren’t hunting animals. Most shark attacks on humans are mistakes. Sharks use their mouth to explore things they are curious about.
MYTH – All sharks are the same.
FACT – Shark species are incredibly diverse with different sizes, shapes, habitats, diets and behaviors. There are approximately 500 shark species, but only three (white, tiger and bull) are responsible for the majority of all bites.
MYTH – The only good shark is a dead shark.
FACT – A healthy ocean needs sharks. They play a vital role in keeping marine ecosystems balanced.
MYTH – If a shark attack has not occurred, it means they do not live in that area.
FACT – Sharks inhabit all of the world’s oceans from inshore, coastal waters to the open sea. Some can be found in freshwater rivers and lakes.
Some interesting things about sharks are:
* Sharks do not have bones. They are made of cartilaginous tissues – the clear gristly stuff that your ears and nose tip are made of.
* Most sharks have good eyesight. Most sharks can see well in dark lighted areas, have fantastic night vision and can see colors.
* Shark skin feels similar to sandpaper. Shark skin feels exactly like sandpaper because it is made up of tiny teeth-like structures called placoid scales, also known as dermal denticles. These scales point towards the tail and help reduce friction from surrounding water when the shark swims.
* Sharks can go into a trance. When you flip a shark upside down, they go into a trance-like state called tonic immobility. This is the reason why you often see sawfish flipped over when our scientists are working on them in the water.
One important question is: What should you do if you see a shark at the beach?
Avoid areas near sandbars or steep drop-offs, which are where sharks tend to congregate. Do not swim near schools of fish. Try to avoid erratic movements like flailing and splashing in the water. Always listen to lifeguards and heed all signs and warning flags at the beach