The Discovery Channel kicked off its annual "Shark Week" on Sunday, and to celebrate, Patch tracked down some shark trivia.
There are about 440 species of shark, the smallest of which is the dwarf lanternshark, which measures in at a little more than 6 1/2 inches. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the whale shark, which measures about 40 feet. Don't worry about being attacked by a whale shark, though—they only eat tiny plankton.
Similar to humans, sharks have more than one row of teeth; however, humans have two sets of teeth, while sharks have many more sets. Each time a shark loses a tooth, a new one moves forward and takes its place. Different species of sharks have differently shaped teeth. Tiger shark teeth are more triangular in nature, while other sharks have teeth that are more conical.
Sharks' skeletons are made of cartilage, the same material that makes up a person's nose and ear, and their skins are covered in tiny dermal denticles—literally, skin teeth—which makes them feel like sandpaper.
Shark Attacks Rare
The three most dangerous types of sharks are great white sharks, tiger sharks and bull sharks. Though all three types can be found in Southern California waters, the chances of being attacked by a shark are slim to none.
In fact, a person has a greater chance of dying from a bee sting or getting hit by a falling airplane part than he does of being attacked by a shark, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium Chief Aquarist Jeff Landesman said.
According to the Ichthyology Department of Florida's Museum of Natural History, a person is much more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a strike. Between 1959 and 2010, there were 30 recorded lightning fatalities. In contrast, there were 89 shark attacks, but only seven were fatal.
Between 1998 and 2009, there were 8,278 boating accidents—599 of them fatal—in California; there were only 30 shark attacks, only three of which were fatal, in the state during that same time period, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.
Data from the National Safety Council, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the International Shark Attack File show that a person has a 1 in 4,919 chance of dying during his or her lifetime of a bike accident but only a 1 in 3,748,067 of dying from a shark attack.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature believes that up to one-third of all shark species are in danger of extinction, mostly due to overfishing.
As the main ingredient of shark fin soup, many sharks are in danger of "finning," where fishermen catch a shark, chop off its fins and throw the still-live shark back into the water.
A ban on the possession, sale and trade of shark fins in California went into effect Jan. 1. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the ban into law last October, and signed an additional law that allows sales of existing stocks of shark fins until 2013 and sport fishermen to eat the fins of sharks they catch.
"The practice of cutting the fins off of living sharks and dumping them back in the ocean is not only cruel, but it harms the health of our oceans," Brown wrote in a statement.
In addition, environmentalists are asking to list under the Endangered Species Act. Some experts believe there are fewer than 350 of the predators off the coast of California and Baja California.
If after review, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration determines there is enough information to substantiate the request to list the sharks as endangered, it will start a 90-day status review. The agency will publish its findings within one year of receiving the petition.