10 Gnarly Facts About Sharks for Shark Week 2022

Fish are friends!

Shark Week, Shark Week, Sharkweeksharkweeksharkweeksharkweek—SHARK WEEEEK.

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Hell yeah, guys. Discovery’s annual Shark Week is almost upon us. On July 24th, 2022, the summer will finally be complete, as we’re treated to a charitable display of delightfully campy shark docs.

As I was relaying this to a friend, she started laughing, telling me I might be the first person she’s met who’s ever actually celebrated Shark Week. This blew my mind. You’re telling me some people DIDN’T come home from a long day at the beach and cuddled up with their family (and dogs) on the couch with a bowl full of potato chips, capping off a perfect summer day with some crappy shark shows?

If this sounds like you—if you, too, are shaking your head, wondering what kind of nerd gets all hot and bothered for Shark Week–then I suppose you just aren’t as hip to sharks as you ought to be. Let’s get you all caught up!

Boneless Babies

king shark in the suicide squad

The most premium shark fact, the one I’m assuming most people learned in elementary school (if you lived on the West Coast, at least), is that a sharks’ skeletal structure is pretty much just cartilage. While yes, these structures can and will fossilize after death, they’re pretty floppy in life.

In particular, their jaws receive a lot of calcium to help them grow as strongly as possible. Which ties into our next fact…

Rotating Teeth

dc comics

Whereas we’re pretty much given one set of permanent teeth after losing our baby teeth, sharks have a rotating set of razors to accompany them through all stages of life. It’s like a sawmill in there, just cuttin’ and movin’ away.

That said, each species of shark has its own unique shape of tooth, with some species having no teeth at all. In those cases, the only thing rotating in their mouths are billowing gusts of krill, wondering what the hell is going on.

Belly Rubbing Kings

steve agee suicide squad

Sharks are basically dogs: roll them over, and they’re golden. But unlike dogs, who get blissed out on pets, sharks get blissed out by the sheer motion of being rolled over. When their bellies are exposed like that, they go into what’s called tonic immobility, which pretty much incapacitates them until they’re flipped back over.

Now, does this mean you should go around flipping sharks? Of course not–it’s a very delicate process that could go horribly wrong! But if you go to an aquarium, you might see staff scientists flip them to do routine checks, and it is pretty cute.

Sensitive Noses

Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf

Another way sharks are similar to dogs is through their noses. Both sharks and dogs have incredibly sensitive noses that basically run their lives. Mess with the nose too much, and you could fundamentally end up hurting the animal.

That said, experts advise oceangoers to aim for the nose (or, alternatively, the eyes and gills) if a shark starts getting a little too chummy with you. A harsh bop on the sniffer will startle them into leaving you alone, but it won’t screw them up forever–much like blowing on a bee will get it to change course, not philosophies.

Sea Grannies

Sharks are some of the oldest living creatures on the planet, with many species having barely evolved since primitive times (hello, Greenland Sharks <3). The ocean is a vast and expansive place, with many zones that are so removed from human touch, they allow for constant, unchanging environments.

No, this isn’t a pass to keep dumping our garbage in the ocean. We want our grannies to live long, fruitful lives, no matter which zone they live in.

Whale Food :(

My love for sharks is less about sharks themselves, and more about the ocean as a whole. As such, I can’t really get angry about this fact, although it is kind of a bummer: due to hunting challenges caused by global warming, some pods of killer whales have started hunting great white sharks.

Now, killer whales are badass and can totally handle that task, but it’s not great for their respective ecosystems as a whole. Sharks keep various populations in check and are essential to reef conservation, much like wolves in Yellowstone.

Unique AF

While all sharks share some unifying traits (such as the aforementioned lack of bones and rotating teeth), the overall shark population is pretty diverse! Some sharks have to constantly be moving in order to live, with the motion of water through their gills being akin to automatic breathing; others are bottom-dwellers who chillax like kings. Some use their noses to sniff out prey, and others use whiskers.

The possibilities are endless, and the best shark docs explore them fully!

Size Matters

If you’re ever swimming in open ocean and see a huge, spotted shark coming your way, don’t panic: this massive creature, the biggest shark species alive (that we know of), is the supremely gentle whale shark, and it only feeds off of krill and other small critters.

Conversely, it’s very unlikely that you’ll meet the smallest shark, the cookie cutter. And this is a good thing. They get their name from their circular jaw, fitted with razor-sharp teeth that cut nasty chunks out of their prey. I had a weird fear of them as a kid, as if a cookie cutter shark would randomly show up in my bathtub. Thanks a lot, Shark Week.

The Results Are In…

…you’re more likely to die at the hands of our own government than via shark attack. Sharks could really care less about people–or, rather, they’re not the bloodthirsty devils that movies have made them out to be. If a shark is curious about you, it might poke around you for a little bit, but that’s usually it. Bites can happen, sure, but only roughly 50-75 people die from shark attacks every year.

There are multiple tips for how to not attract a shark’s attention while swimming, such as wearing specific colors and going out at certain times of day, but overall, if you’re smart, you should be fine. They’re often just doing their thing and would prefer not to be around noisy beaches, which overstimulate their senses.

Aquariums Are Their Best Friends

With overfishing and global warming affecting the oceans drastically, sharks are becoming more and more endangered every year. But aquariums are pretty much their biggest advocates (at least, the good ones are), which means two things. First, you should definitely go visit an aquarium in the near future, because aquariums rock. And if you can’t, consider donating to them, so they can further their conservation and research efforts.

And second, they often have live cams. Oh yeah. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has that shit going on 24/7. I’ll leave you with this, until Shark Week 2022 is finally upon us, baybee.

(Monterey Bay Aquarium)

(Featured Image: Picador)

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Madeline Carpou
Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).