Sharks have something of a bad reputation. This is in part because they’ve long been used as the villains in media, but also because attacks can be quite brutal, even if they very rarely happen. Sharks are incredibly fascinating and important marine animals that have dominated the seas for hundreds of millions of years, and many species are becoming endangered due to overfishing and habitat destruction.
Sharks are vital for maintaining a healthy ocean, and the more people that learn about the fascinating world of sharks and their overall importance, the more sharks we will be able to protect.
They’re An Apex Predator
Apex predators are a vitally important link in the web of life. They sit right at the top of the food chain, and while it’s easy to think that animals on the lower rungs would have more of an impact on the ecosystem, apex predators are just as or sometimes even more important.
Apex predators are often key species to the overall health of an ecosystem, with one of their most important jobs being to keep other species in check. For instance, when wolves were hunted to near extinction in many parts of the United States, deer populations exploded, which then led to them overfeeding on saplings and disallowing forests to grow. Similar outcomes occur when sharks are removed from their ecosystems, and it’s a future that we might have to one day face if we continue to decimate shark populations at our current pace.
They Shouldn’t Be Feared
It’s easy to fear sharks, especially after watching a movie like Jaws. But shark attacks are rare to the point where it’s much more likely to die from driving to work in the morning. This isn’t to say that encounters with sharks don’t ever happen – they certainly do – but it’s such a rarity that it’s often not even worth thinking about. In fact, local domestic dogs are much more dangerous than sharks statistically.
Instead of being feared, sharks should be respected and revered for the role that they play in keeping ocean ecosystems healthy and functional. Sharks are not malicious creatures with a constant intent to kill as many people as possible but are rather wild animals generally going about their day, and in the extremely rare event that an attack does occur, it’s almost always because the shark believed that a swimmer was a seal, which is their preferred food.
An Ancient Lineage
While homo sapiens have been around for the last two hundred thousand years – and although we’ve created computers, cars, space flight, and Australian pokies online, sharks have a much older lineage, and have been dominating the world’s seas for over 400 million years in total. They are one of the most successful animals of all time, having been at the top of the food chain for countless millennia.
The Megalodon, the ancient ancestor of the Great White, was so successful within the ecosystem that it essentially hunted itself into extinction.