Okay, enough with the mushy stuff for a minute.
A friend of mine is counting the hours until the premiere of Shark Week. So in honor of her obsession, I wanted to write about the week of the year that inspires, informs and scares the hell out of everyone.
According to sharkattacks.com (fun site, by the way), the first representation of a shark attack was found on the island of Ischia, Italy. There is a vase dated back to c.725 BCE, with an image of a man being devoured by fish similar to sharks.
They say it’s difficult to state for sure they are sharks since the word hadn’t yet been invented.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the origins of the name shark are uncertain, shady if you will. The first recording is from an exhibition from the second expedition of one Capt. John Hawkins in the 1560’s. His seaman referred to the fish as a ‘sharke’. (www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=shark)
The meaning of a “dishonest person who preys on others” came about in 1599. Man, the shark had a rep even back then.
In France, sharks are called ‘requin’, in Spain they are ‘tiburon’ – I guess Hyundai was hoping for a sleek and stealthy image?
Throughout history sharks have been demonized and made deities.
The Solomon Islands natives had good sharks and bad sharks. The good sharks possessed the spirits of their ancestors, while the bad sharks just roamed about gobbling up people (thereby creating new good sharks?).
The Greeks recorded the first telling of a shark attack in 492 BCE. Its about an unfortunate sponge fisherman, who was snacked upon while being pulled into a boat. All of him didn’t make it.
My own relationship with sharks began around 1974, the year we moved from Arizona to West Palm Beach, Florida.
We lived about 7-10 miles from the Lake Worth Pier. My younger brother would fish off that pier and see all the barracuda swimming about. That in itself kept me out of the water near the pier, but then I started finding shark teeth on the beach. And not all of them fossilized.
I had heard about Peter Benchley’s book Jaws and asked for it for Christmas (Judaism came into my life later). If any of the adults in my family had actually read the novel, I seriously doubt I would have received it – if you think you know the story from the movie, think again and read the book. But receive it I did.
Being raised in a family that likes to dig for more information, I began to do more research into the nonfiction arena of sharks. The stuff I found wasn’t too encouraging at the time because many of the stories were about incidents that had occurred where? That’s right – just off the Lake Worth Pier.
My ocean days were through for the next 10 years.
I didn’t get more than ankle deep in any shore waters until I was forced to go out when getting open water certified as a SCUBA diver. Guess where we went for that – yep, West Palm Beach.
You know, I never saw one shark.
Yoda is fascinated by all things science, so naturally he loves to learn about stuff. He’s brought home several kid level books about sharks from the school book fairs. They have given me a new look at the mighty ‘lord of the sea’.
Here are some of the interesting facts I have found out through his books and the websites, http://www.sharks.org.za/interesting-facts.html and http://www.sharkfacts.org:
Sharks can go up to at least 6 weeks without feeding. The record for a shark fasting was observed in an aquarium with the Swell Shark, which did not eat for 15 months.
A shark is the only fish that can blink with both eyes.
A shark can grow a new set of teeth in a week. (Look out Tooth Fairy)
By counting the rings on the shark’s vertebrae, one is able to gauge the age of the animal.
Two-thirds of the brain of a shark is dedicated to its sense of smell.
Sharks can detect the electrical impulse emitted by a standard AA battery one mile away. (Good reason to go lithium.)
Shark pups begin their hunting and killing before they are even born by consuming their weaker siblings inside their mother’s oviduct. (Talk about sibling rivalry!)
The Cookiecutter Shark, considered a parasite, has jaws that allow it to remove circular plugs of flesh from its victims. Its the only shark that actually uses it’s tongue.
A shark’s tongue is called a basihyal. It has no taste buds. Those are in the shark’s throat.
Lantern sharks can glow in the dark.
Shark teeth were used on brass knuckles, with the teeth pointing outwards on the knuckle. (Damn.)
Boat Builders in some parts of Africa rub the wood of a new craft with hammerhead oil in the belief that it will ensure fair winds and successful voyages. (Isn’t this like a lucky rabbit’s foot? Not so much good luck for the rabbit.)
Like many mammals, including humans, sharks have a large heart with four separate chambers. (Wonder if they have heart attacks?)
Experts believe that the whale shark may be capable of living up to 150 years, making it one of the longest-living creatures on Earth. (Something older than me!)
Bull Sharks have been seen swimming up the Mississippi River. (Watch out you Louisiana folk!)
The large amount of oil in the shark’s liver helps it float.
During mating, a male shark bites the female to arouse her interest. (Who knew sharks would be into S&M?)
Does my fledgling knowledge of shark facts mean I will be swimming in open ocean water again soon? Probably not.
Will we be watching Discovery’s Shark Week? Probably not.
Yoda is still prone to over reacting, so we might never get him back in any body of water – pool included and the family has plans for next week – its my birthday week. Hopefully, the t.v. won’t be on much.
Sharks really are fascinating creatures, scary but fascinating and truly beneficial to have around the oceans. Some of them are getting a bad rap just because of a few aggressive misbehavers. We are after all, encroaching on their territory.
Shark people of the world rejoice in your celebration of this top of the food chain fish. Grab your swimmies, fin hats and we’re number one Great White pointed fingers and make those ratings soar.
Enjoy your Shark Week.