'What the Shark': Ghosts, goblins and other interesting sharks Nat Geo special brought up from the ocean floor
While the average person may not be able to name more than three different species of sharks, there are over 400 known species of the ocean predators
With the Sharkfest on National Geographic, it is easy to get distracted by the killer sharks that are often featured on the specials. After all, the Great White sharks, the tiger sharks and the bull sharks kill more humans than any other shark species. However, with 'What the Shark', we come to realize that there are so many more interesting species of sharks swimming in the oceans. While the average person may not be able to name more than three different species of sharks, there are over 400 known species of the ocean predators.
The Nat Geo special helped uncover a few of them, so let's take a look at some of them and see why they are special.
The goblin shark is a rare species of deep-sea shark and true to its name, it is one of the creepiest species of shark out there. Named after mythical goblins that appear in Japanese folklore, the goblin shark can thrust its jaw three inches out of its mouth to catch its prey. The jaw is connected to three-inch-long flaps of skin that can unfold from its snout. After the prey is scarfed down, the shark brings the jaw back to its mouth and swims off.
Ghost Shark is the name of a supernatural horror film, but it is also the name of a species of sharks. This species is also called chimeras and branched off from sharks nearly 400 million years ago and were around long before dinosaurs. The odd-looking fish sports a retractable sex organ on its head and does look quite spooky. The Ghost Shark is renowned for their dead-eyed glaze as well as their winged fins. Unlike Great Whites and Hammerheads, chimeras don’t have hundreds of sharp teeth. They target much smaller prey instead – crushing them using the mineral plates they have instead of teeth.
The elephant shark is named so for looking a lot like the land mammal -- it has a hooked nose like the elephant and its wide fins remind you of Disney's Dumbo flapping his big years. However, the elephant shark is far from being cute. It has a barbed and spiny dorsal fin that attacks prey with venom like a stingray. The elephant shark is not a true shark but belongs to a group known as ratfish, which emerged from sharks about 400 million years ago, much like the ghost shark. It also holds the record for the slowest evolution. This means that the elephant shark’s genome is the closest yet to that of the first jawed vertebrate, which lived more than 450 million years ago and gave rise to many modern animals.
Megamouth sharks are one of three filter-feeding sharks, meaning they only eat plankton. Despite their large bathtub sized mouths that can swallow a whole person, they’re very docile and extremely rare.
Another interesting term we come across during 'What the Shark' is "Mermaid's Purse" which is nothing but an egg capsule that surrounds the eggs of oviparous sharks, skates, and chimeras. Although frequently mistaken for seaweed, these tough little pouches are actually designed to protect baby sharks and rays.
'What the Shark' airs on National Geographic on July 29 at 10/9c. An encore presentation will air on Nat Geo WILD on August 20 at 10/9c.