It's hard to feel sorry for sharks, and there's a lot of new information about them. Some of it makes one feel sorry for them, while other news makes us feel that maybe they ought to all be destroyed. For instance, in South Africa, sunbathers and swimmers saw a tourist being gobbled up by a gigantic shark. When it was all over, nothing was left in the bloody ocean except his diving goggles.
In the January 13th edition of the Guardian, David Smith quotes a witness as saying, "That shark was huge. Like dinosaur huge." Another witness described it as "longer than a minibus." People on the Cape Town beach saw the shark rise out of the ocean several times with part of a human body in its jaws.
After a sighting like that, you might not feel sad to know that millions of shark fins are sold at market each year to satisfy the demand for shark fin soup, a Chinese delicacy. The shark that killed the swimmer was a Great White, but popular dish. Groundbreaking new DNA research has, for the first time, traced scalloped hammerhead shark fins from the burgeoning Hong Kong market all the way back to the sharks' geographic origin. In some cases the fins were found to come from endangered populations thousands of miles away. Researcher Ellen Pikitch says, "The premium prices commanded by fins have fueled a global shark hunt of epic proportion. Earlier work found that up to 73 million sharks are killed annually to supply the fin markets, and approximately 1-3 million are hammerheads. Inadequate protection, combined with inexorable pursuit, has placed many shark species at grave risk." Just 2 pounds of scalloped hammerhead fin can sell for about $120 in Hong Kong markets.
Researcher Mahmood Shivji says, "Although we've known that a few million hammerhead shark fins are sold in global markets, we now have the DNA forensic tools to identify which specific hammerhead species the fins originate from, and in the case of scalloped hammerheads, also what parts of the world these fins are coming from." But since killing hammerheads is not against the law, even though they can identify the shark hunters, they can't arrest them.
And why do they have those strange-shaped heads, anyway? Hammerheads have an eye at the end of each end of their oddly-shaped head. At first scientists thought that having the eyes so far apart on either side of their heads (instead of in front, like humans do) meant they didn't have 3-D vision, which would be a detriment when it came to hunting prey. But now they have discovered that, by moving their head sideways as they swim, these sharks can BEHIND them as well. These able hunters can actually see their prey at 360 degrees and above and below them at all times.
In BBC News, Jody Bourton quotes researcher Michelle McComb as saying, "This may be beneficial to smaller sharks that are potential prey to larger sharks." In other words, their exceptional vision helps Hammerheads escape from OTHER sharks (but it hasn't helped them escape from hungry Chinese).
When you make YOUR vacation plans for next summer, you can rest assured that there are no sharks in Nashville during the last weekend in June, just a lot of truth seekers who want to hear incredible presentations from their favorite Dreamland hosts!
Art credit: Dreamstime.com
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