Basic Shark Facts

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 12,387
    Safety Expert Scott Konger discusses basic shark facts.

    Scott Konger: Hello! My name is Scott Konger and I'm the owner of the Tarpon Springs Aquarium, and today we're going to talk about basic shark facts. There are over 350 varieties of sharks and there are as many small types of shark like a catshark that are under 4 feet of length, because they are the larger ones that we think of as sharks like a great white shark or a tiger shark.

    They have adapted to living in a lot of different environments. We have the open ocean dwellers like the whitetip shark, and they spend a majority of their life out in the open ocean. You have the long distance traverse like tiger sharks and great white sharks that can travel thousands of miles in search for food, and then you have small reef dwellers that live their life similar to an eel and they kind of grow up to the nooks and crannies of the reef like a catshark that rarely gets over two feet in length.

    Now there are dangerous species of sharks, though it is rare for them to target a person, it does occasionally happened usually as an accidental bite where they are feeding along the surf and people happened to be swimming in that same area and the water stirred up and they are searching for fish. They are actually using that stirred up water to their advantages as they're able to sneak up on the fish without the fish knowing they are there. Then when you're swimming in that same vicinity, they can mistake your foot or leg for a prey and they can grab you. Of course, in those cases, they typically immediately let go, but with their razor-sharp teeth some damage has already been done.

    Then of course there are some other dangerous species. The bull shark which you would say the most dangerous, because if often feeds in the surf where people happen to be swimming. So that puts him most likely to encounter a person as they're feeding. Tiger sharks and great or hammerhead sharks and of course great white sharks. Almost all shark attacks are mistaken identity.

    In the case of great whites attacking surfers, as they look up the toward the surface and they see silhouette of a guy on the surfboard paddling out to catch a wave. He looks very similar to one of its favorite food, which is just a seal. And that they come up from underneath and they're attempt to grab these people and usually once they grab a hold of them and realize they're not a seal, they immediately let go and go on about their business.

    Every once in a while you will have a shark that is certainly targeting a person and trying to basically attack that person for food and they will come back several times attempting to eat the person. Of course, this is their domain. They're fast swimmers and much more comfortable underwater than we are. In those cases, a lot of times the attacks can be fatal, if you are out in water where you can't get away from them.

    The largest shark in the world is a whale shark and they happened to be a plankton feeders similar to the whales, but they're actually true shark. I happened have a chance encounter out there in the gulf recently. Whale sharks, they use their gills to filter the water of plankton and they typically feed on the surface layers of the water where the plankton is thickest. They can get up to over 60 feet and weigh as much as 15,000 pounds.

    The ones I recently had an opportunity to see right out here in the Gulf of Mexico, were approximate 35 to 40 feet and above 4,000 to 5,000 pounds which is typically average size for a whale shark. They are completely docile and they normally would not try to harm you or hurt you in anyway.