Sharp teeth and pointed fin. Stuff of your nightmares???
Not really. Did you know that the ocean is salty from the tears of misunderstood sharks? This could almost be true, the way they are misjudged the world over.
When we think sharks, most of us have a generalized way of picturing them – the monster from Jaws in that gory depiction, for instance. These are actually lovely creatures who just want to cuddle, but no, don’t try that! Of the many sharks found in the Indian seas, here are some facts about five, and some gossip about them.
Photo Credit: Bhushan Bagadia
Whitetip Reef Sharks
With prominent white tips on the dorsal (top) fin and the tail, Whitetip reef sharks are relatively small, rarely exceeding five feet. Whitetip reefs are not aggressive to humans though their expressions seem rather disgruntled. They are somewhat curious, always getting closer and giving divers the once-over. They hang around coral reefs with Blacktip reef and grey reef sharks, feeding on bony fishes and crustaceans. Nocturnal and preferring to be alone, they feast at night and are seldom found in groups.
Among the largest sharks today, Tiger sharks can grow up to five meters with the females growing larger than males. They’re attractive creatures with their stripy pattern and are called the Sea Tiger, which makes them even cooler. With excellent eyesight and sense of smell, these nocturnal creatures easily hunt sea creatures smaller than themselves and, sometimes, an occasional bird. They have a reputation for eating anything, which sadly includes inedible man-made garbage 🙁
Also called Leopard Sharks, Zebra sharks wear a lovely coat of stripes when young and a coat of spots once they’re adults. Growing up to five or six feet, these docile creatures are graceful in movement with their rounded fins and elongated tail fins. Slumbering through the day and foraging the reefs for food at night, they like to be alone. However, Suckerfish deprive them of their solitude as they love to pick their dead skin and parasites.
Oceanic Blacktip Sharks
Most Oceanic blacktip adults have, well, black tips on their fins and tails. With long, pointy snouts and streamlined bodies of almost five feet, these sharks are mistaken to be aggressive. They are surprisingly timid, keeping their distance from divers, although curious. Unlike most sharks, oceanic blacktips sometimes make spinning leaps out of the water while hunting – are they the ballet dancers of the oceans?
It’s unclear where Nurse Sharks got their unusual name from. More importantly, these sharks look particularly sleepy and are least bothered about harming humans who don’t provoke them. They’re famous as suction feeders, generating very high suction forces for easy feeding. The nocturnal sharks prefer being alone at night but are quite sociable during the day – I’m sure they party instead of sleep!
All of these sharks are caught and killed by humans for their fins, meat, liver, and skin. (Now who’s the monster?) Like someone notably said – “Sharks aren’t the bad guys. If someone entered my house wearing just a speedo, I would probably attack him too!”
Edited by Dominic D’Cruz