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 Shark Exhibit: An excursion into the world of sharks

Index
 
> Water World
> Paleontology / Evolution
> Morphology
> Anatomy
> Senses

> Mating and Reproduction
> Behavior
> Touch & Feel
> Sharks and Humans
> Humans and Sharks

> Shark Projects
> Shark Foundation
> Shark Info

This is only a brief summary of Shark Exhibit themes. A personal visit to the exhibit is even better!

Water World

Water World

70.8 % of the earth's surface is covered by water. The oceans alone contain 96% of the earth's entire salt water reserves, or more than 1,350 million tons of water. But oceans vary. For example, the largest supply of food is found in the relatively flat and only about 200 meter deep water layers over the continental shelf, the areas where nutrients from rivers are deposited and feed the microorganisms which form the basis of the food pyramid. Most of the approximately 460 unknown shark species live in these biologically highly productive continental shelf areas.

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Paleontology / Evolution

Paleontology / Evolution

Fish or shark? Sharks are often termed fish, although they are only distantly related to the real bony fish. The evolutionary lines of the cartilaginous and bony fish separated about 400 million years ago.

About 460 shark species have currently been identified. The most intensive research has gone into shark species of the tropics, the subtropics and the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. Those species found in regions south of the equator or even east of the western Indian Ocean to the indo-Australian archipelago are less known, and this is precisely where in recent years scientists have discovered several new shark species.

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Morphology

Morphology

Sharks are not one of a kind, although they all have gill slits.

In the space of 400 million years sharks have adapted themselves perfectly to life in the ocean and inhabit practically all ocean realms. Some live on the ocean floor, others swim freely in coastal areas, the open sea or the deep sea. Their food spectrum ranges from plankton to mussels and molluscs, up to fish, birds and marine mammals. All of these specializations require specific anatomic adaptations and explains their differences in appearance. However, the most reliable characteristic by which a shark can be identified are the five to seven gill slits.

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Anatomy

Anatomy

Just like its external appearance, a shark's organs are perfectly adapted to life in the ocean and to hunting. Special regions in their circulatory systems enable some of them to maintain their body temperature well above the ambient temperature, similar to the systems of birds and mammals

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Senses

Senses

Sharks are masters of seven senses.

Ocean predators must have excellent senses to locate distant or hidden prey. In their more than 400 million years of evolution, sharks have specialized their senses for the one specific task of hunting and thus of surviving. Their night vision not only surpasses that of cats, they can also locate scents 10,000 times better than humans. In addition to a distinctive sense of taste, sharks have excellent hearing which helps them receive and perceive even the slightest differences in pressure. Their high sensitivity makes enables them to feel currents and detect the electrical fields of their prey.

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Mating and Reproduction

Mating and Reproduction

Much is still to be learned about the many different reproductive strategies of sharks. Although this large array of techniques makes it difficult to make generalizations, it explains precisely why they are so successful. Sharks have optimally adapted their reproduction strategies to the most varying conditions.

Most sharks give birth to living young, the others lay eggs. Several shark species mate during the entire year, others prefer specific seasons and geographical regions. The females of some shark species bear young each year, while others take irregular reproductive breaks which can last several years.

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Behavior

Behavior

Our knowledge of shark behavior is very limited.

No two shark species are alike and the same goes for their behavior. Some research has been performed on their hunting behavior, hunching, on the schooling habits of hammerheads and their social interactions.

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Touch & Feel

Touch & Feel

Shark skin is covered with small, very stable, dermal denticles or plate-like scales whose origins are the same as those of bony fish. In contrast to scales, they have an enamel-like outer layer and are structured like teeth. Shed denticles grow back in like shark teeth.

Touchable:
  • Shark skins
  • Speedo wet suit
  • 3M aircraft foil
  • Sandpaper

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Sharks and Humans

Sharks and Humans

Whenever a fatal accident involving a shark occurs somewhere on our planet, the news spreads at internet speed around the world. Regardless if the victim only has scratches, the accident finds its way through the international press and experts are consulted for their opinions.

Alone in the USA and Canada, about 40 people die each year as a result of accidents with pigs – about three times more than shark accidents around the world. But have you ever heard of such an accident?

Fact: Accidents with sharks in bathing areas or in the pursuit of water sports are extremely rare. On a long-term average only about 56 such shark accidents occur each year, of which seven to eleven are fatal. Compared to the several billion bathing, swimming, surfing and diving excursions going on each year, the chances of winning a lottery are higher than being bitten by a shark. These statistics exclude professional shark accidents, e.g. with fishermen or scientists, as well as provoked accidents.

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Humans and Sharks

Humans and Sharks

Every year between 600,000 and 750,000 tons of sharks are caught and often most brutally slaughtered. Statistically, the average weight of a caught shark is only about 10 to 20 kg. In other words, about 100 million sharks are caught each year, or 273,973 sharks per day, or the equivalent of 11,416 sharks per hour!

Three sharks die every second.

Due to their very low reproduction rate, sharks can no longer compensate for the population losses which they suffer on all fronts. Shark pregnancies are long and their well-developed offspring are few in number and usually cannot reproduce until they are much older. Shark populations thus react much more dramatically to overfishing and changes in their environment than do normal bony fish.

The Shark Foundation opposes senseless overfishing and advocates the wise, sustainable usage of worldwide shark populations. The only way to help shark populations recover is by coordinating shark fishing internationally and by introducing closed fishing seasons and protected areas.

Large Swiss distributors such as Migros, Globus and Coop no longer sell any shark products.

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Shark Projects

Shark Projects

The Shark Foundation supports scientific projects which promise more efficient shark protection:

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Shark Foundation The Shark Foundation was established in 1997 in order to actively contribute to the protection and preservation of endangered shark species and their natural habitats. Its goal is to provide the public with first-hand sound, scientific information on sharks and their extremely important function in the ocean. In addition, it supports scientific projects initiated for shark protection, for still not enough is known about sharks to be able to specifically protect them. Sharks do not fit into the pattern of animals considered to be worth protecting, and they live in what to us is a strange environment.

Despite the fact that many shark species are highly endangered, they have no lobby committed to protecting them. Fear is what many people experience when thinking of sharks, especially when their knowledge of these animals often does not go beyond sensation films and dubious media reports. But sharks are not the bloodthirsty predators portrayed in the "White Shark". Each year millions of people swim or dive in the ocean. Per year only about 55 shark accidents are registered, out of which only 12 have fatal outcomes. On the other hand, people slaughter more than 100 million sharks each year.

Reality thus speaks for itself: Sharks are not a threat to humans, but humans are a threat to sharks! Our objective is to make people see sharks for what they really are: a vital chain in the oceans ecosystems who have to fight an almost hopeless battle to survive.

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Shark Info Shark Info is an independent, international media and information service on sharks. It delivers news and background information on the protection, ecology, biology and behavior of sharks, in cooperation with renowned international scientists and specialists engaged in shark research. Shark Info appears on the internet under > www.sharkinfo.ch. Our internet pages are continuously updated.

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