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The Best of Real Shark Scientist David Shiffman’s Ask Me Anything Reddit Thread So Far

Oh boy, now I'm excited about sharks again!


University of Miami marine biologist David Shiffman really loves sharks, but is super bummed by the state of this year’s Shark Week — so he decided to take questions about his life’s work as part of Reddit’s Ask Me Anything subreddit. Finally we’re going to get some real answers from a real person who studies real sharks! And here are the best ones so far.

First let’s get the basics out of the way Highflyn13‘s question:

What’s the most important job sharks do?

Sharks help keep the ocean food chain healthy. Where I’m from outside of Pittsburgh, we used to have wolves. Then we killed all the wolves. Now there are too many deer and not enough food for all of them. The deer leave their traditional habitat and cause billions of dollars of property damage each year.

GunnerWookie asked a great question that led to this awesome factoid:

What’s one weird thing that not many people would know about a shark or sharks?

There are more than 500 species of sharks, and a new species of shark, skate, or ray has been discovered approximately every two weeks for the last decade. Most people only hear about the sharks that bite people.

So every time I am supposed to change out my contact lenses, there’s a new shark species? Dang. That’s a lot.

The crowd started getting into the Discovery Channel criticism next, first with Plz_Use_Caution:

How do you feel about the shark week controversy regarding the first documentary on the megaldon? What should discovery channel do in regards to it?

In the interest of keeping language safe for work, I’ll refer you to an interview I did on CNN earlier this week about the megalodon nonsense.

I think Discovery should apologize, but they won’t.

h2so4hurts brought up what we were all wondering about Tara Reid’s shark credentials:

I was wondering if you could comment on Tara Reid’s recent discussion regarding the generation of whale sharks. Are these the offspring of a kinky dolphin-whale-shark-animal-mammal orgy as Reid implied, or is there an actual scientific evolutionary explanation for the “Whale shark?”

Tara Reid is…not an expert.

Whale sharks are sharks. Fish. Not whales. They’re called whale sharks because they’re really big.

Shiffman even recommended some Shark Week programming to crimjob, who asked:

Do you think Discovery Channel will ever produce a Shark Week that shark scientists and conservationists can all in good conscience get 100% behind or is it a lost cause?

Yes! Did you see “Alien Sharks” last night? It was SO GOOD! Natural history, real science, no sensationalism. It’s exactly what Shark Week used to be.

Ironically, more than a few Redditors complained that the title “Alien Sharks” lead them to believe that there would be some sensationalism and kept them away from watching the program. Sigh.

Apparently Shiffman really think it’s worth watching, though, because this is how he answered my question:

In your opinion, when did the trouble with Discovery Channel’s Shark Week really start? Do you think the vocal frustration directed towards the current state of Shark-related programming is a recent development, or has it been bubbling under the surface for a while in marine biologist circles?

Shark Week used to be about science, about inspiring wonder towards the natural world. Some of it, like “Alien Sharks” last night, still is.

Well, let’s hope they reair that one so I can DVR it. My curiosity has certainly been piqued.

Finally, Lord Aurora asks how we can all get involved:

I don’t have anything to do with marine biology, I don’t live near the coast, I don’t know lots of kids to teach. What can I do to help you with conservation?

There are LOTS of things that you can do to help the ocean, even far from the coast! You’re doing the most important one right now: asking questions and learning about it!

The single most important thing you can do, in my opinion, is to purchase only sustainable seafood, and to encourage others to do the same. The single greatest threat facing our oceans (including sharks) is unsustainable commercial fishing.

There’s plenty more questions and answers over at the official Reddit thread and Shiffman is still hard at work answering them, so head on over to see if he won’t answer yours.

(via Reddit, featured image via Bryan Scott)

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