Most people probably think of a shark as a swimming animal with big fins and sharp teeth. But how exactly does it fit into the animal kingdom? For a surprise, that know, that are actual fish are. But they really do not look that way, right?
What is a shark?
There is a good reason for these different phenomena: “They are both fish, the creatures shown above, and actually represent two very different” “classes” of animals (see our short article on scientific nomenclature).
What we think of the typical fish – goldfish, minnow, salmon – are “bone fish” of the genus Osteichthyes. They have a skeleton that is mostly bone. In addition, they are located in rivers, lakes and seas.
Sharks have been around for a long time!
Would you believe that there are sharks for millions of years? In fact, they evolved long before the dinosaurs! The fossil record of cartilaginous fish dates back 450 million years to the Paleozoic. Sharks themselves appeared about 400 million years ago in the Devon period, often referred to as “The Age of Pisces”. The prehistoric nature is only of many things.
The misunderstood species
Unfortunately, sharks are badly misunderstood. They have an unfair reputation for being dangerous, but for the most part they are harmless. As the famous shark biologist Eugenie Clark once said, “It’s more dangerous to go to the beach than go into the water with sharks.”
Sharks around the world are threatened by human activities such as overfishing, exploitation of certain parts of the body, habitat degradation, and sometimes real slaughter. A major challenge for conservation is the lack of basic information. Although many species are widespread, it is impossible to judge the status of most species. Sharing information about these great animals can only help raise awareness of them.