Seven Superpowered Sharks | BBC Earth

Join Jaida Elcock on a deep dive into the world of sharks and their mysterious superpowers.


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sharks might be the world's oldest superheroes don't believe me we'll think about this sharks started to evolve over 400 million years ago that is indeed older than the dinosaurs but beyond that it's older than trees so when i say old i mean old.

Today there are over 500 species of sharks in our oceans working tirelessly to keep our marine ecosystems healthy and balanced they really are the heroes that we need now of course they needed some specialized adaptations or as i like to call them superpowers in order to do so so let's take a quick look at seven.

Seriously spectacular super powered sharks up first we have the epaulette shark these precious little sharks are one of my personal favorites they live in coastal environments and eat lots of crunchy benthic or bottom-dwelling invertebrates like worms crabs and.

Shrimp shrimp because of this diet these sharks are most active during low tides just think about it it's the best time for them to try and find prey the water is low there's no place for the invertebrates to escape and it's the perfect opportunity for them to go on.

The prowl for a midnight snack i too am a big fan of midnight snacks problem is because they're so active during low tide they often find themselves trapped in an area with little to no water but have no fear tiny fins are here i say trapped because they aren't really stuck there they can get themselves out.

Of these predicaments pretty easily actually they use their pectoral and pelvic fins to in a way walk over rocks and coral reefs and into small tide pools to look for food and get a literal breather from the lack of oxygen they just experienced for being out of the water for so long.

If you look at their little pelvic and pectoral fins it really does look like they're walking maybe waddling is the right term either way fish out of water typically doesn't describe something good but for these sharks it's pretty much a real life superpower so while an epaulette shark can in a way.

Walk on land our next shark's power has to do with not really moving at all so let's talk about the wobbegong shark there are a few different species of wobble gun sharks aka carpet sharks and i personally think that they're named very well they do indeed look like shag carpeting and this shag carpet look is probably a better superpower than you.

Might think it gives them the power of invisibility wubble guns are ambush hunters so they lay waiting for prey to get close enough to them and when they do get close enough they pounce kind of like when your cat is waiting for you to walk around the corner so they can attack your ankles of course wobble gun sharks need fantastic.

Camouflage to hide literally in plain sight so the patterns and colors on their skin mimic the curls and rocks that they lay on creating the perfect disguise and let's talk a little bit about these tassels on the end of their face because it's not just for style though you gotta admit it's a pretty stylish mustache.

They look like the schnauzers of the sea these tassels also help the sharks blend in they give smaller fish a sense of security but little do they know they're about to become a delicious snack so while we may think of their cloak of invisibility as an incredible superpower i doubt every fish is going to agree with that but hey everyone's gotta eat.

The wobbegong may copy its surroundings but the horn shark likes to copy another species the horn shark is a rather small shark and i think that they're absolutely adorable but i doubt that the poor jackson shark is going to agree with that.

While many sharks give birth to live young the poor jackson puts loads of energy into producing eggs these eggs are really cool because they're shaped like corkscrews making them perfect for wedging away into hidden crevices and away from predators but the crested horn shark is going to.

Try to make sure that all that time and energy was for absolutely nothing why for reasons you might not expect the crested horn shark looks eerily similar to the port jackson chart making it difficult to tell friend from foe this power of mimicry allows the crested horn shark to infiltrate port jackson.

Shark territory searching for eggs to steal though they look really similar the crested horn shark is actually one of the most common predators of port jackson shark eggs but like i said before everyone's gotta eat man i bet the phrase keep your friends close and your enemies closer really.

Hits home for the poor jackson shark the horn truck may be on the smaller end of the sharky side spectrum but we're about to jump straight to the largest the whale shark is not only the largest shark but the largest fish on the entire planet they can grow to be 12 meters long and.

Weigh up to 20 metric tons what imagine a school bus that can swim that is exactly why the whale shark superpower is super size as you might expect a shark this big needs a lot of food to maintain its size but the way this shark feeds its super-sized body is pretty surprising they're actually filter feeders.

That's right the largest fish in the sea feeds on plankton some of the smallest organisms in the ocean just like some whales do so i guess the name whale shark is pretty fitting wouldn't you say they tend to feed at the surface but they can also dive pretty deep too down.

To about a thousand meters and i wish so badly that i could do the same thing and these gentle giants can migrate huge distances in search of food as well anything to feed those gigantic bodies now i would love to know which whale shark friend i'm waving to if i happen upon one on a dive well good news you see those gorgeous.

Polka dots along their body well those patterns are as unique to each whale shark as fingerprints are to humans so if you get a good enough picture it might just help you identify which record-setting super-sized friend you found from a tropical giant to the big boys of below zero it's time to talk about our.

Good friend the greenland shark the five meter long greenland shark lives in a place you might not expect to find a shark the arctic up north the water is frigid so you can't expect them to move very fast in fact nothing they do is very fast every aspect of their life history seems to be in super slow whoa.

They only swim about two miles per hour and they only grow up to one centimeter every year which is half the growth rate of mount everest yeah a literal mountain grows faster than the greenland shark so it's really hard to imagine what doesn't grow faster than the greenland shark all this slow and prolonged life history gives them the power of immortality kind.

Of i mean compared to other vertebrates the greenland shark is actually thought to be the oldest living vertebrate species on the planet using radiocarbon dating on the tissues in their eyeballs scientists have been able to estimate how old greenland sharks can actually live our oldest estimate right now is a female shark.

That's anywhere between 272 and 512 years old but let's take an average and just assume she was around 400. that means this shark was likely alive at the same time as alexander hamilton and when the musical about his life was written she was probably even around before then when the mayflower left england and.

Sailed to massachusetts in the early 1600s so think twice before you call your grandmother old because she's got nothing on the greenland shark these sharks live longer than any of us humans could ever possibly wish to live and they spend all of those years just swimming slowly wandering around the.

Arctic in search of snacks i'm curious to know what you would do with 400 years because honestly i might also just look for snacks now if you're swimming slow as a greenland shark you're probably not going fast enough to take flight so it's a good thing our next animal has a.

Little bit more speed on its side but this next shark isn't a shark it's actually a ray a mobile ray to be specific isn't that cheating you might ask kind of but not entirely while sharks and rays are indeed different animals they're very closely related so to put it simply the main difference is that sharks have a long.

Thin body like a sausage and rays are flattened like a pancake does that make anybody else want breakfast food just me well both sharks and rays are in a group called elasmobranks i like to refer to reyes as our flat flat friends because their superpower is place.

Kind of these fish gather in groups of hundreds of individuals and then they start to show off by jumping really high out of the water how high about six feet or nearly two meters out of the water that's taller than me by a solid six inches now the thing is we don't really know.

Why they fly it could be to knock external parasites off of their bodies it could be for some form of communication it could even be to attract a lovely bait i mean i'm sure flying would make a real splash in the dating pool but regardless of why they jump so high when they do so they sure look fly.

though the mobile rain may have the speed to launch itself out of the water no shark has speed like our last hero the mako shark is a sleek and powerful animal and as the fastest shark on the planet it's no surprise that its superpower is super speed the shark would easily win in a race.

Against any other shark they can reach top speeds of up to 45 miles per hour which is a typical speed limit for the main roads in most of the places that i've lived which means the top speed that you're allowed to drive in a car to the grocery store is the same as the top speed that the mako shark can swim to catch its food i feel so honored to have.

Something in common with such a gorgeous animal now of course in order to swim that fast the mako shark needs to be literally built for speed so let's take a look at a couple adaptations first they're built like a torpedo very hydrodynamic perfect for swimming fast this shark also has a very prominent.

Keel on its tail right before that signature tail fin i like to call this section of their tail the ankle so the keel on their ankle helps to reduce drag letting them cut right through the water something else that helps the shark reduce drag are its dermal tentacles which basically translates to skin teeth now all sharks have these type of scales.

But the placement and shape of these dermal denticles on the mako shark really helps streamline the water across their body helping them zip right through it this last adaptation is something that we humans have in common with them they are to an extent warm-blooded the structure of their blood vessels.

Helps them retain heat more than most sharks why is this important think about it like this if you've ever been outside in the cold rain or the snow and you try to wiggle your fingers they're not going to move very fast are they but once you start to warm them up your fingers can move a little bit faster it's the same kind of idea with these sharks they need.

Their muscles to be warm in order to swim fast enough to catch their prey with all these adaptations super speed in a very literal sense comes quite naturally to the mako shark these seven sharks gave you just a sneak peek at all the real life superheroes we have in our oceans today.

Sharks have evolved over millions of years and are perfectly designed for the roles they serve in our ecosystems so be sure to thank our sharky superheroes because no one's really sure what the world would look like without them.


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Seven Superpowered Sharks | BBC Earth