We all have a strange fascination for sharks. It’s a mix of primal fear and admiration at their perfection.
With over 450 recognised species of shark in the world’s oceans and even some rivers, they are one of the most diverse creatures on the planet. Here are some fun facts that you might not know already and some you might.
Did you know? Sharks and rays are in the same family. Their skeletons are not made from hard bone like ours but with flexible cartilage.
When it comes to fun facts about sharks to teach your kids, the first question about sharks simply has to be…
What is the Biggest Shark in the World?
The biggest shark in the world also happens to be the biggest fish, and it’s the beautiful whale shark. They feed on plankton and krill and cruise the worlds tropical oceans with their huge mouths open to suck up their food.
They can grow to a whopping 10 metres (over 32 feet) in length and weigh in at a staggering 19,000 kg (over 40,000 pounds) but are gentle giants and no risk to humans at all. In times of old, you can see how tales of sea monsters could come from sightings of this impressive and beautiful creature.
How Many Teeth Does a Great White Have?
Great white sharks have around 300 teeth up to 7.5 cm (3 inches) long that are set in rows. The first 2 rows are the sharks weapons used to grab and cut their prey and the ones behind are ready to replace them should any get broken or fall out. Wow! I bet they make a lot of money from the tooth fairy.
Juvenile great whites feed on fish while the mature ones prefer seals, sea lions or dolphins. They are mysterious, intelligent and powerful creatures far from the savage monsters that are depicted in movies or the media.
They do not actively hunt people and attacks are a case of mistaken identity. Attacks are usually the shark taking one test bite. The trouble is, that test bite can easily cut through human flesh. I wouldn’t go for a swim if there’s any of these around.
Check out this video of what is thought to be the biggest great white ever caught on camera and it’s massive!
The next question in the fun facts about sharks to teach your kids list is…
What is the Biggest Shark to Ever Live?
The now extinct, megalodon is the biggest shark that has ever lived, as far as we know. They could grow up to 18 metres long (nearly 60 feet) with teeth that dwarf the great white’s, the biggest ever found is nearly 18 cm (7 inches). It went extinct about 2 million years ago, so for once at least, it had nothing to do with humans.
Below is a size comparison between the megalodon and a great white and as you can see, this shark could easily make a snack out of a great white. Seemingly, megalodon used to eat huge marine mammals such as whales!
Can Sharks Live in Rivers?
There are several sharks that can live in rivers and some that visit from time to time, the biggest and most famous of which, is the bull shark which spends time at sea and swimming up rivers often for breeding purposes. The bull shark is a ferocious predator and one of the most aggressive sharks out there, with many recorded attacks on humans and many of them fatal. But don’t panic, few attacks on humans in rivers have been recorded.
What is the Smallest Shark?
This strange looking character is a dwarf lantern shark, they are a type of dogfish and they are possibly the smallest shark species, growing to a mere 20 cm (just under 8 inches). They live at depths of 280-450 metre (just under 1500 feet) off Columbia and Venezuela. Very little is known about them, at such depths and being so small, it’s little wonder. I think it’s safe to say you don’t need to worry about this one.
The next question when it comes to fun facts about sharks to teach your kids is…
How Long Can a Shark Live?
A Greenland shark can live for over 400 years, making it the oldest vertebrate on the planet. These bizarre creatures are rarely seen and very little is known about them. It’s little wonder due to the freezing North Atlantic waters in which they live and the great depths they dive too. They are certainly top dog in these deep and dark waters. They grow up 5 metres long and take 150 years to mature to adulthood. That’s a lot of teenage years!
Check out this short documentary about the Greenland shark.
I said sharks and rays are in the same family, so I wouldn’t want to leave them out…
What is the World’s Biggest Ray?
Out of the 500 plus known species of ray, the manta ray is the biggest. These majestic beauties use their wings to effortlessly glide through the water and grow to a massive 7 metres (22 feet) in width and can weigh in at as much as 1600 kg (3530 pounds). Much like the whale shark, they use their huge mouths to suck up plankton and krill and are gentle giants. Seen in the wild, they can be a breath-taking sight.
What is the World’s Fastest Shark?
The short fin mako shark is the fastest shark. Its torpedo shape means it can reach speeds of nearly an incredible 100 kph (60 mph). They need to be quick, when their favourite prey is the super-fast tuna fish. They can grow to around 6 metres long.
The final and scariest question in the fun facts about sharks to teach your kids …
Which Shark has Killed the Most People?
Forget the more famous great white, bull shark and tiger sharks, the shark which has killed the most people is the oceanic white tip shark. They are the stuff of nightmares, taking out unfortunate sailors that end up in the water, especially during World War II. They would take the floating people one at a time in what must be a horrific ordeal. They grow to around 4 metres (13 feet). Exact figures of lives taken are unknown as many attacks would not have been recorded.
Well now you know all the answers to the big (and small) shark questions your kids might just ask.
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Barry S. Brunswick is an author. You can buy his books on Amazon:
Dreamland Part 1 – The Fabric of Dreams
Dreamland Part 2 – The Masters of Light
The War of The Turnips
Barry Brunswick’s Tall Tales – A Short Story Collection
Inner Outer – A Poetry Collection