Ask most people to name a shark species and there’s a good chance they’ll say the great white – a few might mention the hammerhead, or maybe a bull or tiger shark. But how many would say the goblin shark, or the cookie-cutter, or even the basking shark?
The truth is that there is a bewildering and varied range of shark species in the oceans – and most of them do not conform to the Jaws-influenced stereotype of what a shark should behave or look or like.
Take, for example, the rarely observed frilled shark. This species, which has a long eel-like body and grows to around 2 metres, derives its name from its six pairs of frilly gill slits, the first of which meet under its throat. The frilled shark is also regarded as a “living fossil” due to its ancient ancestry as its lineage dating back to the Late Cretaceous and perhaps even to the Late Jurassic.
And what about the cookie-cutter shark? This little critter only reaches about 50 cms in length but specialises in taking cookie sized bites out of larger fish and whales – it has even been known to tackle the occassional nuclear submarine!
Contrast that with the huge and graceful whale shark which lives mainly by filtering plankton and can live to around 70 years old (when allowed to do so by humans). Whale sharks are famed for being gentle giants and despite growing to sizes to rival any dinosaur, they behave in a very docile manner around humans.
One of the strangest looking sharks must be the rarely observed goblin shark (pictured left). It has a protrusible jaw, which, when feeding, can extend out almost to the end of its snout, and has led to comparisons with the monster featured in the Alien movies.
These are just a few of the hundreds of shark species. Other unusual ones are the wobbegong, nurse shark, thresher shark, basking shark… and, well, you know what? Every shark is unique and special in its own way! So why don’t you tell us what your favourite shark is, and why? To give readers that little extra incentive (in case you needed it!), we’ll give away one of the brand new “Bycatch is ecocide” T-shirts to the person who gives the best answer.