Myth: ‘Sharks are vicious man-eaters’.
Truth: Most sharks are far too small to be vicious killers of men and women, and many sharks live in the deep sea where no humans swim. The fact remains that around 50-100 shark 'attacks' occur each year, and only about 2-4 of these result in death.
Most shark 'attacks' on humans are as a result of mistaken identity, in which the shark picks up on signals similar to that of injured turtles or see's the silhouette of a surfboard, which it may believe to be a sea lion. Sharks will take an exploratory bite to determine whether the prey item is edible (as they don’t have hands to feel their food) and then in the case of humans, swim away if it is not. Unfortunately, a single bite from a shark such as the great white (Carcharadon charcharias) can result in the loss of a limb or be fatal due to the loss of blood that ensues.
Myth: ‘Sharks have no predators’.
Truth: The greatest predator of sharks is man. Man kills up to 273 million sharks each year. To give some perspective, in just two years fishermen will kill more sharks than the equivalent human population of the United States. Humans are not natural predators of sharks, as we are terrestrial hunters and didn't really fish for sharks until we became 'civilised'. Now we cut off fins and throw the living creature back to die on the bottom of the sea. Have we really evolved? Some shark species are actually adapted to predate on other sharks, like the bull shark. In theory, any large shark could consume a smaller one, though this is not usually the case. Orcas have also been known to consume sharks; even the Great White shark has been known to be on the menu for orcas. However, the most numerous natural enemies of sharks are the various parasites that can kill them if they get out of hand.
Myth: ‘Sharks are mindless killing machines’.
Truth: Despite the common myth that sharks are instinct-driven eating machines, studies have indicated that many species possess powerful problem-solving skills, social complexity and curiosity. The brain-mass-to-body-mass ratios of sharks are similar to those of mammals and other higher vertebrate species. Sharks have a tendency to work together as a team. Groups of sharks, roughly the same age and gender, tend to return to the same area each year. Sharks have been observed returning to a particular place and patrol the same bays every year at the same time. Each year, they bask and communicate with each other with body movements and are present at each other’s kills.
Myths: ‘All sharks are visual hunters’.
Truth: Sharks are also able to locate prey using their electrical sense, made up of pores known as the ampullae of Lorenzini. Measurements demonstrate that a shark can detect electric fields of a magnitude similar to a 1 volt battery placed in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, with the positive pole connected to Boston Harbor and the negative pole placed in the harbor at Plymouth, England. The miniscule current flowing across the ocean (1/1,000,000,000 volt per square centimetre) would be at a level detectable by sharks. Translated to hunting, a shark can sense a prey in turbid water or buried beneath the seafloor by electrical sense alone. Hearing provides another cue. Sounds of struggling fish will attract sharks from great distances. Their sensory systems are highly evolved making them the apex predators of our oceans.