Typically you fall on one side of the spectrum or the other - you either fear sharks and think you'll be their next meal or you respect them for the magnificent creatures that they are. These emotions have led to the creation of "Shark Week", movies like Jaws or Soul Surfer and shark exhibits at acquariums around the world.
It's important to step back and understand, sharks are apex predators, but they are critical to our ocean ecosystems. They are not in the water hunting for humans who are enjoying a swim. Here are 12 interesting points from our friends at Shark Allies.
1) Sharks are some of the oldest animals on the planet. They have been around much longer than man or any other mammal – probably as much as 400 million years – and they haven't changed very much in at least the last 30 million years.
2) There are an estimated 350 known species of sharks, with a great range of size and shape
3) Most sharks are harmless to humans. Of all shark species, about 80% grow to less than 1.6 meters (5 feet) and are unable to hurt people or rarely encounter people.
4) The largest is the whale shark, which grows up to 12 meters (40 feet) long, and the smallest is the dwarf shark that matures at a length of 15 Centimeters (6inches).
5) Sharks live in all parts of the oceans, from shallow to deep water, and from the tropics to the Polar Regions.
6) Sharks are ten times more sensitive to light than humans.
7) Sharks don’t communicate with sound. They don’t even have organs for sound production.
8) Sharks have remarkable senses. In addition to touch, taste and a keen sense of smell, sharks possess excellent vision at close range and two unique senses - The Lateralis System (to detect vibration) and the Ampullae of Lorenzini (Sensory organ to detect very weak electric fields). Since everything living produces an electrical field, the sharks can sense that something alive is in the water before it even sees or smells it.
9) A shark may grow and use over 20,000 teeth in its lifetime. Sharks never run out of teeth. Behind the first set in the front are many rows developing. As the next row moves forward a full set replaces the damaged, older set.
10) Sharks' relatively large and complex brains are comparable in size to those of supposedly more advanced animals like mammals and birds.
11) According to the International Shark Attack Files, of shark attacks recorded since the year 1580, only 10 of 400 species were involved in fatal attacks. Bull, Tiger, and white Sharks account for almost all attacks--and many of those attacks are assumed to be accidental.
Last but not least, consider this...
12) Sharks are part of every indigenous culture that lives near the sea. Humans have felt the power and presence of sharks since they have first laid eyes on the ocean. They have revered them as deities, gods, manifestations of ancestors and guardians for as long as cultures have existed. We have all come from the ocean and sharks have been part of our world for as long as we have been human.