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Sharks & Rays

Page 1

There is perhaps no other animal on Earth that evokes more fear in the mind of man than the shark. They are viewed as vicious man-eaters and are slaughtered the world over in an attempt to make the seas safe. But of the hundreds of different species of sharks in the ocean, only a small handful pose any threat to man. Humans do not appear to be on the menu for sharks. It is thought that most shark attacks are a case of mistaken identity. A diver in a wet suit looks a lot like a sea lion, a favorite food for some of the larger sharks. The fact is that more people are killed by lightning each year then by sharks. Public fear and ignorance of these magnificent animals has led to many species being hunted and killed in large numbers. They have almost disappeared in some parts of the world. Sharks one of evolution's most perfect creations. Many of them have not changed in millions of years. They have evolved into the perfect hunting machine. Sharks are part of a family of fishes known as cartilage fishes. They have no bones in their bodies, only cartilage, like the soft flexible tissue in the end of your nose. Rays are also a member of this group. In fact, rays are actually nothing more than flattened out sharks. They are the "birds" of the sea. They can be seen flying gracefully through the water as effortlessly as a bird flies through the air. Some rays are capable if inflicting painful stings with their tails. Others, such as the giant manta, can grow to enormous proportions but are completely harmless to man. Below is a listing of some of the more common sharks and rays found in the world's coral reefs.

Great White Shark (Carcharodon carcharias)
Great White Shark
(Carcharodon carcharias)

Few animals inspire more fear in the mind of man than the great white shark. It is an aggressive and ruthless hunter, and in many ways, is the ideal predator. This shark has been known to grow to over 25 feet in length. The great white is very common in the Pacific Ocean. They will eat almost anything, but prefer to dine on sea lions and other marine mammals. Unfortunately, human ignorance and fear has contributed to the decline of this magnificent animal in the wild.

Tiger Shark (Galeocerdo cuvier)
Tiger Shark
(Galeocerdo cuvier)

The tiger shark is another ferocious predator. It is second only to the great white in its size and reputation as a killer. Tigers can grow to a length of over 16 feet. This shark has a big head, blunt snout, and gets its name from the stripe marks on its body. This dangerous shark will eat almost anything, and has been known to attack humans.

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna lewini)
Scalloped Hammerhead Shark
(Sphyrna lewini)

The scalloped hammerhead is just one of several species of sharks that are characterized by a large hammer-shaped head. The shark's eyes are located on either end of this wing-like structure. This shark grows to a length of 14 feet, and feeds mainly on small fish and invertebrates. It is an aggressive species and has been known to attack humans.

Blue Shark (Prionace glauca)
Blue Shark
(Prionace glauca)

The blue shark is a slender species that gets its name from the bright blue color of its tail and fins. It can be identified by its long, thin body and long, conical snout. The blue is one of the most common sharks in the sea, and is found in many parts of the world. They are often seen swimming lazily at the surface, but have also been seen at depths of over 1600 feet.

Gray Reef Shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos)
Gray Reef Shark
(Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos)

The gray reef shark is one of the major predators on the coral reef. Its highly streamlined body allows it a great deal of speed and maneuverability in the water. The gray reef is a very aggressive species, and is commonly seen in the classic "feeding frenzy" film footage. This shark can be identified by the black markings on its pectoral and tail fins.

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