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Sharks: The Oceans Greatest Mystery – Part 1



The word ‘Shark’ can instill a mixture of emotions in the human psyche, they are referenced in human cultures throughout the world, and stories of Sharks were commonplace on the decks of Ships for millennia. They have been represented in myth as both powerful guardians and vicious villains, in the 16th Century sailors and whalers of the time referred to sharks as “Sea Dogs” and are referenced in the Bible as being manifestations of the devil, even the word Shark is translated from the German word Schurke which means “scoundrel”. However, in French Polynesian and Hawaiian cultures they are revered as powerful gods and guardians who watch over fisherman and their families.

With such huge differences in how we view them, it is no wonder how inaccurately Sharks are portrayed in modern day media, therefore throughout this three-part blog series I am hoping to help you to better understand what a Shark truly is, and I will be covering subjects such as: What is a Shark? What we know and what we do not know about them, what is threatening them, and how we can be better ambassadors to Sharks worldwide.

What is a Shark?

In this first blog I want to give you a better idea as to what a Shark is and how they have become our oceans top predator. What a lot of people think of when they first imagine a shark is that they have sharp teeth and tend to always have ominous music following wherever they go, however there is much more to these animals than their teeth. Recent discoveries have shown that the Greenland Shark can live to be up to 500 years old, and the Bonnethead Shark is the first known Omnivorous Shark where up to 60% of its diet consists of Sea Grass. These are just two of many recent exciting discoveries, and scientists predict that we are about to enter the golden age of Shark discovery!

Sharks are a part of the fish family, although they are part of a distinct group that separated from Bony fish around 306 million years ago. Early relatives of Sharks have existed on our planet for as far back as 400 Million Years, they have been around longer than Humans, Dinosaurs and even trees. Throughout time sharks have taken many shapes, sizes and forms, but all have one thing in common, the makeup of their skeleton. The skeletons of Sharks and their relatives (Rays & Ratfish) all have a skeleton made of cartilage which is the same substance as your ears and nose, this allows them more flexibility in their movements and gives them an edge over their prey by allowing faster turns and giving them access to tight spaces and crevices.

Sharks, like other fish, also have Hyostylic jaws which means that the upper jaw isn’t connected to the skull, this allows more movement and flexibility in their strike when hunting. Sharks are also accompanied by two additional senses compared to humans, they have a lateral line which allows them to detect movements over 100 metres away and can detect frequencies as low as 25 Hertz, they also have their Electroreceptors which can pick up minute amounts of electricity given off by their prey’s muscles, such as the heart, and Sharks use this to help find prey buried in the sand, or to help pick off individual fish in the dark.

When it comes to sharks and what they eat, the best way to sum it up would be to imagine that for every animal in our Earth’s Oceans, there will be Shark that is designed and capable of eating it. This means that Sharks have become an incredibly diverse group, and as it stands there are over 500 species of Sharks, which range from the 14-Metre-long Whale Shark, all the way down to the Dwarf Lantern Shark, which is the smallest known shark species and it can fit into the palm of your hand. In between these we have large species such as White Sharks that breach from the water whilst trying to capture Seals, and smaller species such as the Dark Shy Shark that curls into a doughnut and covers its eyes with its tail when it is startled.

Another interesting point about Sharks is that they have come up with many different ways of tackling prey and have specially adapted teeth that match their diet, Sharks that have very needle like teeth such as the Sand Tiger Shark or Mako feed mainly on fish or other slippery prey, if the teeth are large and triangular like those of the White Shark or Tiger, then they prey on larger animals such as marine mammals, and if the teeth are flat like that of Nurse Sharks or Port Jacksons it generally means they feed on hard shelled and tough animals such as Shellfish and Snails. Teeth are not the only adaptation Sharks have evolved to use to their benefit, their differences in body shape or design can also indicate to us the hunting techniques they use, a good example of this would be the Hammerhead Sharks, which use their unique shaped heads to pin their prey against the seabed.

Sharks are often thought of as cold blooded, however this isn’t true for all species, some Sharks, such as White Sharks and Makos, are able to warm their bodies a few degrees warmer than the water, Scientists have predicted this is caused by the movement of the muscles generating heat. This heat has most notably been found around the eyes and brain; this may be an adaptation to help their eyes and brain react faster whilst tracking prey during high-speed chases.

Are Sharks Maneaters?

Sharks have been negatively portrayed in the media for as long as we’ve been swimming in our oceans and it is only recently that we’re starting to discover the positive impacts of Sharks and just how important they are to our Oceans and our Planet. Sharks have been represented as maneaters, but in fact sharks are only accountable for an exceedingly small number of incidents relating to a Shark bite, Sharks are in fact more likely to avoid human interaction and encounters with wild Sharks are a lot rarer than you would once think. To put things into perspective you’re more likely to be killed by a falling coconut or vending machine than you are to be bitten by a shark.

Even the age-old myth that Sharks are attracted to Human Blood has been proven to be false, after it was recorded that Human Blood and other bodily fluids have no effect on a shark’s behaviour or heart rhythm, this is due to our blood having a higher iron content than that of their regular prey. Even the way we look and move doesn’t resemble the prey of Shark. But the question people always ask is why do Sharks bite if they do not view us a food item? This is due to Sharks curious nature, Sharks have to be curious to discover what is and isn’t edible and, in our case, when Sharks bite it tends to be very quick lasting mere seconds before it lets go of us and swims away this is due to the animal realising that we aren’t a part of its regular diet and releases us.

If you want proof that Sharks aren’t what media would have you believe just look for any image with a Sharks and Diver, Snorkeler, or Swimmer if the media or movies have any ounce of truth then these people would’ve been killed a long time ago but these images solidify how wrong we’ve been looking at Sharks throughout the years.

So that’s it, an introduction to the Oceans Greatest Mystery, I hope that you have a greater understanding into what a Shark actually is and to how fascinating this amazing group of animals are but stay tuned for the next entry in this series where we dive deeper into the strange world of Sharks and discuss what we do and don’t know about them.

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Donovan is a Divemaster who currently works as a Shark Diver at Blue Planet Aquarium based in Ellesmere Port. Donovan’s passion lies with Elasmobranch’s (Sharks & Rays) and this passion has led him to work in South Africa with White Sharks for a short period. He also believes that education through exposure is the best way to re-educate people about Sharks. Follow Donovan at

Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Sharks: The Oceans Greatest Mystery – Part 3



Sharks are a truly incredible animal that have evolved and shaped themselves to be the perfect predator which, in turn, has shaped our oceans and the animals that live within it. Sharks have existed on our planet for up to 400 million years and throughout that time they have become one of the most numerous top predators on our planet, they have lived through 5 major extinction events when many other species died out. Sharks have been doing something right all this time, but at this very moment sharks are facing a threat that is so powerful that it is literally changing the face of our planet, and that force is Humans, it’s us. Sharks are being killed at an unprecedented rate, a rate of unimaginable scale. Recent studies by scientists have shown that since 1970 we have reduced Shark & Ray populations by a staggering 71%.

What threats do they face?

Sharks worldwide are currently dealing with a huge array of issues which is putting the whole group at risk. Sharks are being killed for their Fins, Oil, Teeth/Jaws and other members of the group, such as Manta Ray’s, are killed for their Gill Rakers and wings.

Firstly, let us talk about what is potentially the most inhumane form of animal harvesting, Shark Finning. This is the practice of removing a Sharks Fins, usually whilst the animal is still alive, and then discarding the rest of the animal back into the Ocean. The Shark is usually still alive throughout the whole process and the animal usually dies from drowning or blood loss on the sea floor. Shark fins only account for around 2% of a Sharks average body weight which means that 98% of the animal is merely tossed back into the ocean, 98% of the animal is just simply wasted. Now this begs the question what are Shark fins used for? Well, they are used in an Asian dish known as Shark Fin Soup, now Shark fin is tasteless, which means that the fin only adds mere texture to a Chicken or Pork flavoured broth which further begs the question, why use Shark Fin and not something else to add texture. Well, the soup serves more as a status symbol and it is known as the food of emperors and kings, those who can afford and serve Shark Fin at a banquet or party are revered as wealthy.

Sharks are also harvested for traditional medicine, where it is believed that by ingesting Shark parts such as their cartilage or liver, it can give you a Sharks “magical” powers and abilities. The most common rumour is that Sharks do not get cancer, and by consuming Sharks you can also become immune to cancer. This is of course false; Sharks do in fact get cancer and with recent additions of pollutants and chemicals into the oceans from human activities, sharks get cancer now more than ever, along with a whole host of other ailments. This means that by eating Sharks you are actually more likely to catch illnesses and ailments such as Mercury poisoning, due to the fact that Sharks hold a large quantity of such toxic substances in their bodies.

Aside from Shark finning, they are also at huge risk of becoming caught in nets and on lines as Bycatch, this means that they get caught despite not being the targeted species. For example, Sharks are commonly caught on Tuna hooks or in Tuna nets. Unfortunately, in these instances they tend to not even have their fins removed and, in this case, the whole animal is wasted. The sharks are usually already dead after being brought up due to the amount of time they have sat on hooks and usually die from exhaustion or drowning. Sometimes Sharks are killed in sport fishing tournaments as game fish, where people will go out on Shark fishing days and many Sharks will be killed for the chance of beating a previous record.

Sharks are also at risk of habitat loss, in the same way as Jaguars and Macaws in the Amazon, and Elephants in Asia. Human activities such as fishing, expansion, pollution, mining and Global Warming are all threatening Sharks Habitats. Flapper Skates, which are also known as Common Skates, are now Critically Endangered around the UK due to trawling damaging the egg laying sites for this species. The Bimini Islands, which are famous for the presence of a Lemon Shark Nursery, were in trouble a few years back with plans for demolishing a section of the Mangrove Forest on the island, to make way for a Golf Course. Thankfully it wasn’t successful, but if it was it could have put the Lemon Sharks at extreme risk as this is an area needed for the beginning of the lemon shark’s life cycle.

Another factor putting sharks at risk, is the amount of plastic pollution and pollutants in the water. Plastics can block the digestive system of plankton feeding Sharks and Ray’s such as Whale Sharks and Manta Ray’s, and discarded fishing gear such as nets can entangle up Sharks and other aquatic animals. The amount of fishing being done in the oceans also puts sharks at risk from their food supply disappearing, as humans fish the oceans, we are inadvertently removing the fish stocks that Sharks rely on for their survival.

Sharks & People

Sharks are an apex predator in the World’s Oceans, and it may seem far-fetched to believe, but we depend on Sharks more than you might think. Let us start with fish, currently 10-12 percent of the world’s population relies on the Ocean’s fish for their diet and survival, and Sharks help to keep fish stocks healthy by eating sick, injured or diseased fish and holding the toxins and diseases in their bodies until they die, this is why Sharks have such a strong immune system. With Sharks hunting these fish, it helps to keep the stocks healthy and means the fish that we catch and eat won’t make us sick.

Sharks also play a vital role in the Planet’s oxygen cycle, the Ocean essentially acts as a giant blue lung taking in Carbon Dioxide from the air, seagrass beds and plankton then absorb the Carbon Dioxide and release it as Oxygen back into the atmosphere. If Sharks were to disappear then other animal stocks would explode out of proportion and eat all of the sea grass and/or plankton and the oxygen cycle would be hindered. An example is, if Tiger Sharks were to disappear, then the Turtle population would rapidly increase, allowing the Turtles to eat all of the Seagrass, which would mean we lose a key component of the production of our oxygen. Along with plankton, seagrass helps to produce 75% of the Oxygen we breathe daily. Seagrass Meadows also store more Carbon than any Forest on land making them one of the most productive habitats on our Planet.

How can we be better Ambassadors to Sharks?

It may seem like there is not much we can do, but you would be surprised to hear that there is in fact a lot that we can do to help Sharks. Sharks have been tarnished with a hugely negative reputation, a reputation that can make protecting them difficult. The problem is people are told their whole lives that Sharks are mindless killing machines and that if you go in the Ocean, you are likely to meet your timely demise, but we now know that these stories are literally just that, stories. One of the best ways of protecting sharks is to help people better understand them and all it may take is a simple conversation, a conversation where you can debunk myths, a conversation where you can change their perspective. Jacques Cousteau once said, “People protect what they love”, and this saying holds a lot of weight. People will protect sharks if they love them, and the only way to allow people to love them is for them to first understand them, and understanding first comes through education. If people love Sharks, then the whole cycle starts again with them going out and telling people about Sharks. If you are Diver and or, Underwater Photographer, then you can share your experiences and imagery with people, which will allow their perspectives to shift, and you would be surprised to find out how beneficial Social media can be for Sharks, as it’s a place where you can share your images and stories to a very wide audience across the globe.

Another way to help is to not buy Shark Fin Soup or any Shark products, it may be tempting to buy a Shark tooth necklace or Shark in a jar when on holiday, or even to try Shark Fin Soup, but this will only feed the problem, if we can do this then, when the buying stops then the killing can too.

Something that has been realised recently is that Sharks are worth more alive than dead and over a Sharks lifetime, it can bring in many millions of Dollars through Echo-Tourism, compared to the couple of dollars it will bring into a fisherman if the animal is killed. Thankfully, areas that were once Shark fishing hotpots, have turned to becoming areas where Shark populations have exploded, due to an influx of Divers from across the globe going to see Sharks alive and healthy. Places such as Raja Ampat, The Maldives, and The Galapagos Islands have put protections on sharks and in doing so attract divers to these areas where Sharks are protected, with divers going to these areas only further helps and funds the Protected area and allow the work to continue.

A final thing you can do is to write to your Local MP about needing larger and stronger Marine Protected areas, with stronger protections from commercial fishing. As it stands there is less than 0.5% of our World’s Oceans that have complete protection from commercial fishing. Scientists have stated that for our Oceans to be protected, we need at least 30% of our Oceans to have complete protection for Sharks, Fish and other marine mammals, which will, in turn, allow our Oceans to stabilise themselves.

There is still a lot that you can do and if you do just one of these things, you could help change the fate of Sharks and allow them to continue thriving and shaping our oceans for millennia to come.

So that’s it, a deep dive into Sharks, our Oceans Greatest Mystery. A look into their biology, behaviour and secrecy. I hope after this you come away with a better understanding and appreciation for this incredible group of animals, I hope after this you now look at a Shark and see not a monster, but an animal that is incredibly misunderstood and one that not only keeps our Oceans healthy, but also our whole Planet. Sharks are a key component in our survival, and with our help they can continue to be our Oceans Greatest Mystery.

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Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Take an immersive dive below the waves off the Welsh coast using 360 VR: Common Spider Crab (Watch Video)



A week-long series from Jake Davies…

Below the waves off the Welsh coast, there are a range of species and habitats that can be seen. However, you don’t have to venture too far from the shore to see them or don’t have to leave the comfort of your home. Using 360 videos provides an immersive feeling of being below the water and encountering many species and habitats from diving one of the most important habitats and species that aren’t often seen whilst diving. For more of an experience of being below the waves, the VR videos can be viewed using a VR headset.

Take a VR dive just off the shore and explore what can be found within the shallow waters of a sandy beach. Fish can be founding cruising amongst the seaweed and numerous crustacean (Crabs, lobster, prawns, shrimps) species can be found walking around the seafloor. Common Spider Crabs (Maja brachydactyla) are one of the largest crabs species found along the coast and during the early summer, they aggregate in large numbers to moult which allows them to grow.

Follow Jake aka JD Scuba on the YouTube channel @Don’t Think Just Blog.

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Explore the amazing triangle of Red Sea Reefs - The Brothers, Daedalus and Elphinstone on board the brand new liveaboard Big Blue.  With an option to add on a week at Roots Red Sea before or after. 

Strong currents and deep blue water are the catalysts that bring the pelagic species flocking to these reefs. The reefs themselves provide exquisite homes for a multitude of marine life.  The wafting soft corals are adorned with thousands of colourful fish. The gorgonian fans and hard corals provide magnificent back drops, all being patrolled by the reef’s predatory species.

£1475 per person based on double occupancy.  Soft all inclusive board basis, buffet meals with snacks, tea and coffee always available.  Add a week on at Roots Red Sea Resort before or after the liveaboard for just £725pp.  Flights and transfers are included.  See our brochure linked above for the full itinerary.

This trip will be hosted by The Scuba Place.  Come Dive with Us!

Call 020 3515 9955 or email

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