Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sharks: Helpful Hunters or Mindless Eaters? by Stephen Moore

(This is a report my oldest son wrote for the 2014-2015 school year.)

Sharks: Helpful Hunters or Mindless Eaters?
by Stephen Moore

            A hungry shark hones in on its latest victim.  The victim swims away, but it is too late.  The shark consumes a... fish.  Some people would have ended that sentence with the word surfer or swimmer, but that is rarely the case.  Sharks, though curious, are actually fascinating creatures and rarely harmful to humans, even though they seem scary.
So, if sharks are not to be feared, what are they?  Sharks are fish.  To be more exact, sharks are cartilaginous fish, which means they have a skeleton made out of cartilage.  Sharks also have gills on the sides of their heads that they breathe with just like other fish.  Most sharks have tough skin that is a dull gray color, though some are more colorful, making them more like their fish counterparts.  Another important thing to note, that makes them different than most fish, is that sharks have no swim bladder, so they must keep swimming or they will sink. (Carrier, 1)  It is easy to tell that sharks are basically fish, just by their physical appearance.
Sharks have some unique traits, though.  Unlike other species of fish that eat things like plankton and smaller fish, most sharks eat fish, squid, octopuses, shellfish, and smaller sharks.  Larger sharks, such as the whale shark and basking shark, are toothless sea creatures that eat only plankton and are completely harmless to other creatures. (Carrier, 1)  Sharks live mainly in saltwater, and in every ocean of the world. While some sharks live in shallow water, others live in very, very deep water. (Savage, 12)  Sharks' traits are varied and fascinating.
Sharks can actually be helpful, too.  Some sharks are both hunters and scavengers. They eat dead ocean creatures such as fish, sharks, sea lions, etc.  Some sharks, such as the tiger shark, even eat garbage! (Sharks, 123) Sharks have an important role in the ocean's ecosystem. Without sharks, there would be too many other sea creatures in the ocean, and disease could make those creatures go extinct. Sharks can be helpful by keeping the ecosystem balanced.

So, why do sharks attack humans when sharks have so many other things available to them to eat in the ocean?  Most people think sharks attack because they are mindless eating machines that consume everything in sight, including humans.  The truth is, sharks do not even like humans, not even their taste!  Most of the time, when a shark sees and attacks a human, the shark does so because it thinks the human is something the shark finds good to eat, such as a seal or sea turtle.  Most attacks of this kind are on surfers, because the board looks like a shark's prey and not a piece of wood that someone is riding on.  This is one of the main reasons sharks attack.
Another reason sharks attack is because of a habit some sharks (such as the great white) are known to have called "bite and spit." (Savage, 27)  When the shark sees something that looks like it might be good to eat, it takes a bite, and waits for the taste to fill its mouth. If the potential food tastes good, the shark will finish eating its prey.  If it does not, the shark will spit out the flesh and find something else to eat. (Savage, 27)  This is why sharks usually only bite a person once when they attack.  They do not like the taste of people at all.
Though many people fear sharks, sharks should and probably do fear humans!  For every human killed by a shark, humans kill two million sharks by fishing, finning or for no reason at all other than fear.  That is a ratio of 1 to 2,000,000! ("Shark Attack Facts")  If people really thought about it, they would see that sharks are not the dangerous ones.  People are the hazardous ones to sharks.

Sharks are curious creatures that are very interesting, even though they seem terrifying.  Sharks are cartilaginous fish with unique traits, such as having no swim bladders, keeping the ocean ecosystem balanced and using the "bite and spit" technique.  Some sharks can even be helpful to the environment by eating garbage.  Given these facts, what would the world be like without sharks?

Works Cited

Carrier, Jeffrey. "shark". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2015.

            Web. 16 Feb. 2015. <>.

Savage, Stephen. Face to Face: Sharks. New York: Tangerine Press, 2009. Print.

"Shark Attack Facts." National Geographic Online. National Geographic Society, 2015. Web.


Stevens, John D. Sharks. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1987. Print.

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