While these top hunters of the deep blue have evolved to survive cold and dark climates, sharks are no match for the ultimate predator — humans.
That’s why Shark Week, running from July 11 through July 18, was launched 33 years ago by Discovery Channel to encourage shark conservation and educate the public on these underwater predators.
Of the 31 oceanic species of sharks and rays, 24, or over three-quarters, of the species are now threatened with extinction due to their steep drop in numbers, the study said.
With Hollywood blockbusters like “Jaws” and “The Meg” fanning the flames of fear and paranoia in humans, these underwater animals have suffered a serious image problem.
However, sharks play a crucial role in their environment and keep the animal kingdom in check.
Sharks balance the food chain
As sharks were killed off from overfishing in the Sea of Cortez, located between Baja California and the Mexican mainland, other creatures swooped in to take their place on the food chain.
Wahoo and hammerhead sharks, along with other fish species like marlin and swordfish, have seen a steep decline in population due to commercial and local fishing in the area.
The squid only live for a couple years, but they reproduce at a much faster rate than sharks.
Some sharks are partially warm-blooded
The study found endothermic fish, which are able to regulate their own body temperature, swam over one-and-a-half times faster than ectotherms, animals that rely on the outside temperature to regulate their body heat.
Researchers weren’t able to make any conclusions on how the warm-bloodedness could be helpful to sharks, but they hypothesized that it could help them when searching for food or migrating.
Sharks can live for hundreds of years
Sharks tend to have one of the longest life spans of creatures in the animal kingdom.
The animals don’t reach maturity until the ripe age of 150 years old, and they are the longest-lived vertebrate known to humans.
Some can glow in the dark
Very little is known about sharks that glow because the sharks mostly roam in the deep sea, which begins over 656 feet (200 meters) below the ocean surface.
Researchers also discovered the southern lanternshark (Etmopterus granulosus) and blackbelly lanternshark (Etmopterus lucifer) have bioluminescent abilities.
They nearly went extinct millions of years ago
Despite having the reputation as an apex predator, sharks died off at alarming rates millions of years ago.
Over 90% of open-ocean sharks disappeared from the planet around 19 million years ago, scientists said.
Based on current research, there was no climate or ecosystem crisis during this time, which leaves a gaping hole of knowledge for scientists to do more research on and unlock the mystery.