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17 Reasons Why Sharks Are Misunderstood

© Education Images - Getty Images

By Alex Aronson, Redbook

Due in large part to their starring roles in some of Hollywood’s most terrifying movies, sharks have garnered a pretty bad reputation. However, these commonly misunderstood oceanic predators are a vital part of the underwater ecosystem, and they run the risk of becoming extinct. In honor of National Shark Day on July 14, let's get to know our finny-friends a little bit better. Here are 17 things you might not have known about one of the sea’s most crucial creatures.


Sharks are not prone to randomly attack people.

© Chris Hyde - Getty Images

Most attacks either come as a form of self-defense or to protect their territory. They have been known to nab a surfer a time and again because their wetsuits resemble the appearance of a seal.


They don't feed constantly.

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Sharks typically feast on fish, seals, and larger sea mammals. Great whites can even go a full three months between meals.


They're seriously athletic creatures.

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The salmon shark is the world's fastest shark, reaching speeds of up to 55 miles per hour when it swims. That's 11 times faster than Olympian Michael Phelps who can swim at a speed of 5 miles per hour. The shortfin mako shark is also impressive, with its ability to accelerate faster than a Porsche.


They fend for themselves from birth.

© Justin Sullivan - Getty Images

Once a shark gives birth to its babies (a.k.a. "pups"), she shows no care for any of them. They are left to fend for themselves. The mother might even try to eat one or two of them.


They can live much longer than you'd think.

© Getty Images - Getty Images

While it was believed that most sharks live an average lifespan of 30 or so years, researchers have recently discovered that some deep sea sharks can live past 100, with some arctic Greenland sharks surpassing 250! All the more reason to respect our elders.


They coexist peacefully with many creatures.

© GIANLUIGI GUERCIA - Getty Images

Several small species of fish, including pilotfish and the cleaner wrasse, are known to ride in a shark's current. But this Uber ride isn't free-the "cleaners" work to pick parasites and debris off of the sharks.


They don't have any bones.

© Wild Horizon - Getty Images

Sharks are made up entirely of cartilage. Therefore, when they die, they completely disintegrate into the ocean, leaving behind only their teeth.


They don't typically travel in packs.

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For the most part, sharks are rather asocial. Hammerheads seem to be the exception to this as they commonly school in larger groups.


They aren't very active during the day.

© Barcroft Media - Getty Images

Even sharks keep on a daily schedule. Their most active times occur during the twilight and dark hours.


They don't always lurk below the water's surface.

© Chris Brunskill Ltd - Getty Images

Sharks can jump 25 to 30 feet out of water. That's some serious air!


They have an impressive set of teeth.

© Arterra - Getty Images

Great whites have over 300 teeth, arranged in seven rows.


But they lose them frequently.

© Barcroft - Getty Images

Great whites can lose 1,000 teeth in a year. But it only takes a few days for a tooth to grow back. Sharks may lose and produce over 30,000 teeth in their lifetime. To put this into perspective, humans only grow/replace 20 teeth.


They have a very strong sense of smell.

© Education Images - Getty Images

Great white sharks can detect a colony of seals two miles away. This makes sense, as over two-thirds of a shark's brain is dedicated to smell.


They swim constantly.

© Education Images - Getty Images

"Sharks will sink if they stop swimming."


But they can't swim backwards.

© VW Pics - Getty Images

This is due to the fixed positions of their flippers and fins. Their bodies were designed to optimize forward directional speed.


Their habits vary by breed.

© Barcroft Media - Getty Images

Some sharks migrate across entire ocean basins to feed and breed, while others remain pretty much in one spot their whole lives.


Not all sharks are massive.

© Dave J Hogan - Getty Images

Breeds like catsharks and lanternsharks are actually very small. Although, the average length of a great white shark is 4.6 to 6 meters long, which is longer than a typical car.

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