Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sharks: More Than Just Bite

Just how smart are sharks? It's a question that has tinkered with the human mind for many years now. Are they simply mindless eating machines? Or is there something more to them. Does the fact that 3/4 of their brains are dedicated to smell mean that these animals have little intelligence? The answer to both of those questions are no. Over the past few years there has been scientific discoveries that point to the direction of sharks having some form of intelligence and in some cases problem solving skills.

One shark in particular has been the subject of some of these discoveries, the whale shark. Yes the largest of all fish may be a bit smarter than most people would give them credit for. These massive sharks are the gentle giants of the sea and it appears that they are capable of doing some interesting things. One of which was caught on film and has spread like wildfire. The video shows a whale shark going up to a commercial fishing vessel's net and literally sucking the small fish back out of the net for a free meal. At the same time, the shark does not eat the net at all. Whenever it gets some of the net in it's mouth, it spits it out. Clearly an animal with one thing on its mind would not care to pick and choose what it is eating. Fishing vessels have also claimed that whale sharks have come up to their boats and gently push them around, almost like playing with them. It's an incredible thing when you think about it. Whale sharks are not alone, other species of shark including hammerheads, nurse, sand tiger, and lemon sharks are all known to form social groups from time to time. For example, scientists have found caves where over 30 sand tiger sharks were literally hovering motionlessly together in the water. Scientists have also found massive piles of over 200 nurse sharks, just hanging out together. Lemon sharks are known to spend the day resting with other lemon sharks before going off to hunt at night. Perhaps the most interesting is schools of blacktip reef sharks showing off their catches to one another by leaping out of the sea with their food hanging out of their mouths. It could be that these sharks, just like people, enjoy being around other members of there species. 

Despite that being a possibility, we may never really know the truth about the intelligence of sharks. These animals are clearly smarter than what Jaws was made out to be. No shark in the entire world goes around eating and targeting humans 24/7. In fact, no shark truly targets a human. Anyway... Despite the sense of smell taking up a large portion of a shark's brain, it does seem that there is more than meets the eye going n inside the head of a shark. Not to sound crazy, but if we can save these animals from extinction now, who knows what we could learn about them. Nobody truly knows what goes on inside the head of a shark, but the moment you lay eyes on a living, breathing shark, you can tell that something is going on inside that head besides when their next meal is. Next time you go to an Aquarium, try it. Look at a shark and you should quickly be able to figure out what I mean. Now the question is, why would I type all of this up without mentioning the main reason I wanted to? Well here's the answer.

With Discovery Channel's Shark Week quickly approaching, people begin to get into a frenzy about sharks. I said it during an earlier blog and I will say it again, T.V. is just that, T.V. Shows that have sharks biting people, blood squirting everywhere is what draws people to Shark Week. For some strange reason, people seem to have an infatuation with being eaten. It has always been that way since the days of the Ancient Greeks. It's just  fact that mankind is for some reason interested in things that can eat them. That infatuation though can lead to terrible things for the creatures of this planet, and it already has. Not just with sharks, Alligators were nearly driven off the planet, large snakes are killed by people out of fear, many people fear lions, tigers, and bears (no pun intended) and sure enough, they kill them as well. Anything that can harm and potentially consume a human brings up some of the deadliest emotions in a person. Fear. So while you sit and watch Shark Week this year and your heart starts to beat a little faster as you see that fin cutting through the water heading right towards an unaware surfer. Remember. It is television. Nothing more, nothing less. Shark attacks themselves are not as dramatic as you will see, they are nowhere near as common as you will see, and they are usually far less deadly than you will see. Keep in mind that a lot of the scenarios where divers are in the water with "hungry sharks" are staged in a sense where shark feeding tours take place and the sharks know a meal could be coming to them if they stick around in that area. You may see a diver get bit on a show, but you have to ask yourself what are the conditions surrounding the diver. So enjoy this year's Shark Week, but remember, there is far more to these animals than their bite!

No comments:

Post a Comment