Observation Deck

Sarah Hoot, Editor in Chief

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Fake news alert, ladies and gentlemen! This one comes to you not in the form of an article but a photo. The photo is from 2016 but has been circulating through social media recently and I want to bring you some enlightenment. It features a great white shark leaping clear out of the water and was proclaimed as being taken by Bob Burton, “chief photographer” from National Geographic, and was the photo of the year. The Facebook page Pictures in History shared the photo which brought it back into circulation. Unfortunately, Nat Geo stated that this photo was doctored by someone using Photoshop and stock images.

But even though this photo is fake, Nat Geo took the opportunity to share their own photos and facts about the different types of sharks out there. So in the spirit of knowledge and fighting fake news, here are some facts about sharks.

First, great white sharks can grow to between 15 and 20 feet and can weigh up to 5,000 pounds, but they are not the biggest shark that swims in the ocean. That title goes to the whale shark which can grow to be anywhere from 18 to 33 feet and can weigh up to 41,000 pounds. But fear not, this shark doesn’t pose a threat to humans since they only eat krill and other smaller fish.

Second, bull sharks not only live in warm coastal waters, they can also survive in brackish and freshwater. They have even been found far inland via rivers and channels, making them more likely to have human encounters. These sharks do pose a threat to humans but they attack out of curiosity and because they often swim in shallow, warm waters where people like to swim.

Third, tiger sharks are called so because of the vertical stripes on their skin. They are also often called the “garbage cans of the sea” because they will eat just about anything. Their normal diet includes sea turtles, shellfish, sea birds and even smaller sharks but scientists have also found license plates, trash bags and other junk in the stomachs of tiger sharks.

Fourth, the mako shark is the fastest shark on Earth. It can reach speeds up to 20 miles per hour with bursts of 45 miles per hour. Their bodies are built for speed; they have cylindrical bodies and their tail fins are long on top and short on bottom which gives them agility.

Fifth, shark babies are on their own from birth. Some sharks give birth to live babies called pups but some like carpet sharks lay eggs in mermaid purses. While they are in the womb, pups that are formed first will often cannibalize their brothers and sisters resulting in a few strong pups being born.

Sixth, great white sharks can indeed jump clear out of the water like the picture shows (even though that one is fake). This technique is call breaching and it happens when the shark is hunting seals. Great white sharks hunt from below and when they spot their prey swimming above them they charge at up to 25 miles per hour. The speed of their charge can often launch them out of the water sometimes up to 10 feet in the air. Breaches happen extremely fast and actually witnessing it happen is rare but is awesome when it is seen.

I hope you have enjoyed these fun shark facts and learned not to trust everything that you see on social media. If you see the photo again, maybe take the time to let whoever shares it know that it is a fake photo. Then maybe tell whoever shared it to go to the Nat Geo website to see some Not-so Fake photos of sharks so they can learn a thing or two.

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