News Flash: Sharks Live in the Ocean. And They’re Really Cool!

Sharks are a source of both fascination and fear. They are an ancient species that has adapted and survived in our oceans for more than 450 million years, and although some species were once hunted to near extinction, many have made a comeback in recent decades.

Worldwide, there are said to be more than 400 species of shark that range in size from a few inches to forty feet long. Off the coast of the Carolinas, there are usually 25 - 50 different species of sharks, depending upon the season. Sharks will follow the Gulf stream up and down the east coast looking for food, as that is their main activity.

Here are some more fun facts about sharks:

  • Female sharks are generally larger than male sharks partly because they need to carry shark babies which are born fully-formed.
  • Some sharks are pregnant for two years!
  • Lightning strikes are more common and deadly than shark attacks. As National Geographic points out, “The U.S. averages just 19 shark attacks each year and one shark-attack fatality every two years. Meanwhile, in the coastal U.S. states alone, lightning strikes and kills more than 37 people each year.”
  • Hippos, deer, and cows are deadlier than sharks. Hippos kill a reported 2,900 people per year in Africa, deer are responsible for the deaths of an average 130 people per year (usually due to car collisions), and cows kill about 22 people a year.
  • Sharks don’t sleep. At all. Since some species have to continue swimming in order to breathe, instead of falling into a deep sleep, sharks remain semi-conscious.
  • Sharks grow up to 50,000 teeth in a lifetime. Shark’s teeth are not deeply rooted like human teeth, so they lose and grow teeth quickly. (This is great news for shark tooth hunters!)
  • In addition to their killer sense of smell, sharks also can detect prey by tapping into the small electrical fields that other animals generate using tiny organs located near their nostrils.
  • Sharks have incredibly acute hearing, especially low-frequency sounds like the sound made by a struggling fish’s contracting muscle tissue. They can hear their prey as far as 3,000 feet away!
  • Sharks don’t eat humans in general. When they do bite, it’s a case of mistaken identity and they will usually let go quickly.

To learn more about sharks and to see a few species up close, check them out at Ripley’s Aquarium at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach! At Ripley’s, you can dive with the sharks, sleep with the sharks, and get a close look in their glass bottom boat! The 85,000 square foot aquarium is open 365 days a year!

Visitors walking through the Ripley's Aquarium tunnel

Swimming Safely

Although it’s very rare, sharks can sometimes mistake humans for food and bite. Remember that when you're swimming in the ocean, you’re swimming in their home. To reduce your risk of attracting a shark, consider the following:

  • Don't swim within 75 yards of piers or other places where people are fishing.
  • Always stay in groups. Sharks are more likely to mistake a solitary individual for prey.
  • Do not wander too far from shore. This isolates you and places you farther away from assistance.
  • Avoid being in the water during dawn, dusk, darkness or twilight hours. This is when sharks are most active and have a competitive sensory advantage.
  • Do not enter the water if bleeding. A shark’s sense of smell is acute.
  • Don’t wear shiny jewelry in the water. The reflected light resembles the sheen of fish scales.
  • Avoid waters where there are signs of bait fish or feeding activity. If you see seabirds diving, that means there are fish in the water in that spot, and the fish will also attract sharks.
  • Avoid wearing brightly colored contrasting clothing in the water. Sharks see contrast particularly well.
  • Refrain from excess splashing to minimize your risk.
  • Leave the water if sharks are sighted.
  • And, of course, do not harass a shark if you see one.

The ocean is plenty big enough for humans and sharks, but it makes sense to be aware of these simple safety precautions while you enjoy the ocean.

Shark swimming overhead in Ripley's Shark Tunnel