With 440 species, the shark is one of the most well known sea creatures in the world. Popular for their size, attacks, and their level of diversity, these animals rule the sea with their intimidation. Statistics show that in the last 339 years there have been a total of 1,049 shark attacks in the United States. The seriousness of most shark attacks has resulted in a widespread fear of sharks.  Because of this, over one hundred million sharks are killed a year. Due to the enormous occurrence of killings in previous years, the shark population is decreasing faster than they can reproduce.

Henry David Thoreau, an author and poet stated “I have no doubt that one shark in a dozen years is enough to keep up the reputation of a beach a hundred miles long.” His opinion made a valid point. The human race relies so much on the mysteries said about the animal that we forget to understand how the creature works and functions. We forget that we are in their home taking up space. We forget that we often times look like prey swimming in the sea waiting to be eaten by the notorious animal. Although the reputation frightens many, it is highly exaggerated. Is it the large size, stealth movement, or vicious teeth that scare us humans? Or is it the legendary stories that cause us to panic? Maybe if all of us learned a little more about this amazing fish we would become a little less nervous to go in the ocean.

Sharks vary in size from 17 centimeters to 12 meters and they have very strong teeth made to tear things apart. Although they can bite through almost anything, sharks do not chew their food; they swallow it whole. While each sharks body is designed due to their habitat, their bodies are made up of only cartilage which allows them to move faster and more stealth-like. Because of their power and ability to prey unnoticed, they are able to hunt strong animals. All sharks are carnivores. However, their diets are all different. Sharks that like to swim closer to the sea floor feed on crabs and clams. The sharks that are more aggressive on the other hand prey on dolphins, fish, seals, and turtles.

Sharks do not intend to eat humans. Instead, they are more on the look out for blood in general. The sharks that are known to attack and kill humans are the: Great White, Oceanic Whitetip, Tiger Shark, and Bull Shark. As proven in 2006, there were a total of 96 shark attacks. Out of the 96 attacks, 62 of them were noted as unprovoked. When sharks attack humans it is due to our appearance. Usually attacks occur in dirty or grimy water when we are mistaken as prey.

Shark attacks leave various effects on people. Whereas Bethany Hamilton lost an arm, a surfer named Todd Endris, was attacked and left with only half of his body’s percentage of blood. The first victim ever recorded in California was Barry Wilson. The attack occurred in Pacific Beach on December 7, 1952. After the shark had dragged him under, jerked him from side-to-side and attacked him from the front, Wilson was reported dead by the time he was able to get to shore. Rodney Fox, the most well-known shark attack victim, is known for the intense injuries he survived. He was attacked three times and his lungs, rib cage, and stomach were all exposed also leaving his arm mangled. After 360 stitches Fox was able to survive.

The shark that removed the arm of surfer Bethany Hamilton was a 15 foot tiger shark. Soon after the attack, a shark was found whose bite matched the mark left on Bethany Hamilton’s surfboard.  The shark pulled and tugged but did not take Bethany under the water. Most sharks are known to “hit and run”, a method in which the shark takes a bite of the victim and quickly swims away knowing the mistake that the human was in fact not an animal. Some attacks, which usually end with greater injuries, do what is called a “bump and bite”. This is where the shark circles the victim, proceeds to hit or bump them, and then attack. Fortunately the shark did not return for more when it bit Bethany.

Although sharks are sometimes vicious and attack innocent people, they are strong and beautiful animals that are highly misunderstood. Most attacks are accidental, but some do result in death. While swimming in the ocean, try to remember it is their territory.  Avoid swimming in waters that are known for shark attacks and wear brightly colored swimming or diving gear. Most often we can do our part to avoid the possibility of attack.


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