Sharks are apex predators and are solitary or highly social. They have a cartilaginous skeleton and five to seven gill slits on the sides of their heads. Sharks are members of the clade Selachimorpha, the sister group of rays. Learn more about sharks. And don’t forget to read our Shark Fact Sheet! We’ve included an interesting picture for you to enjoy.
Sharks are apex predators
Apex predators are the most powerful animals in the marine ecosystem. They are the first known vertebrate predators, and have been around for millions of years. They serve as regulators of biodiversity, removing sick and injured prey from the ocean. Hence, sharks are vital to maintain the balance of the ecosystem. These amazing creatures are also highly intelligent and use their superior senses to track prey.
They are carnivores
Although all sharks are carnivores, many species have a dual taste system. This means they can eat both plant and animal remains. Some species of shark can happily consume carrion, which is dead animal remains, while others can live off plant life. Sharks typically consume between 0.5 percent and three percent of their body weight each day. However, there are also a few exceptions to the rule.
They are solitary hunters
Bull sharks are solitary hunters. They feed on a wide variety of prey and cruise the ocean floor slowly. To catch their prey, bull sharks will use bursts of speed to pounce on their victims. Large adult sharks, on the other hand, don’t have natural predators, and they must hunt on their own. But despite being solitary hunters, bull sharks can form short-term hunting partnerships.
They are highly social
Many people have an inaccurate notion that sharks are solitary creatures. On the contrary, many species of sharks are highly social. For example, lemon sharks form close friendships with other members of the same species, and these sharks maintain complex social networks that facilitate information exchange. Scalloped hammerheads, which hunt for prey in huge schools, also have intricate social systems. Sand tiger sharks have even been observed to form highly social networks.
They have seven senses
Sound has the ability to travel much farther underwater than on land, making the sharks’ hearing organs an essential part of their hunting and protection strategy. Sharks can hear underwater as far as 800 meters, and their ears are equipped with nerves sensitive to pressure and sound. While sharks don’t have external ears, they have an inner ear that plays an integral role in sound perception and balance. Sharks have three compartments in the inner ear, and these sensory cells have hair-like structures that bounce off physical objects to detect the presence of a predator or prey.
They have a lateral line
Sharks have a special sense organ known as a lateral line. It runs along the sides of their bodies and is able to detect the vibrations of water that are generated by movement. The shark can also detect odour plumes from the water, which help them to identify potential prey. The lateral line is a system of canals filled with fluid, with modified hair cells lining the walls. Its lateral line detects movements and vibrations of up to 25 Hertz and is therefore useful in locating prey.
They have an electrical sense
Scientists say that sharks have an electrical sense, which is unlike ours. Unlike us, sharks have two types of senses: hydrodynamic reception and electroreception. These two forms of perception are complementary to each other. Sharks can detect electrical signals given off by both humans and fish. Sharks can hear both sounds and movements. Sharks can also detect small electrical fields emitted by human heartbeats.
They have a swim bladder
The swim bladder in shark is related to the lungs of terrestrial vertebrates. Traditional wisdom has it that the first lungs were simple sacs connected to the gut, allowing organisms to gulp air during oxygen-poor conditions. This organ evolved into the lungs of terrestrial vertebrates and swim bladders in ray-finned fish. However, Farmer proposed in 1997 that the swim bladder was actually a precursor of the lungs. In this way, the swim bladder in sharks may provide a similar function to the lungs in vertebrates.