Mention the word shark and most people immediately think of Jaws. But a great white is just one of hundreds of types of sharks which can be found swimming in all of the world’s oceans. These toothy cartilaginous fish come in every shape and size. The largest of the species, whale sharks can reach up to 60 feet long, while the dwarf lantern shark can fit in the palm of your hand. There are hammerhead sharks with their distinct, oddly shaped silhouette, thresher sharks with powerful whip-like tails, and blacktip sharks with those eponymous dark markings. There are tiger sharks and lemon sharks, basking sharks and leopard sharks….and the list goes on and on.
But as diverse as they are, there is one thing all sharks have in common. They all play a critical role in regulating marine ecosystems—from Polynesia’s tropical reefs, to the icy waters of the Arctic, and Galapagos’ nutrient-rich seas. These apex predators feed on the animals below them in the food chain helping to maintain the balance. Sharks directly limit the populations of their prey which in turn affects the prey species of those animals, and so on all the way down the chain. Long story short: a healthy shark population means a healthy ocean with greater diversity and life.
Watch the video above to learn more about these denizens of the deep.
And see what it’s like to pet a shark!