Anatomy of a predator

JAMESTOWN, R.I. (WLNE) — Sharks are simply fascinating fish. They’re relatives of stingrays, sawfish and skates. Their common thread is they’re a class of fish with a skeleton made of cartilage instead of bone.

Dr. Jason Ramsay, shark expert and associate professor at Westfield State University, explained it makes them a lot more flexible. It also makes them particularly vulnerable when injured as bone heals very well and cartilage does not.

Sharkskin is also unique. Sharks are covered in scales made of a surprising material.

It’s very similar to their teeth and even contains dentin. If you were to pet a shark from tail to snout, it will feel rough.

You might think rough skin would generate drag, slowing the shark down as it swims, as the scales stick out into the water column. Here’s where the fascinating part comes in: the scales on the skin of a shark create a small current of water that surrounds and holds to the shark as it swims!

Think of it as having a water force field, creating a lot less drag.

Sharks are known for their hunting skills, it’s built into their biology — sharks have seven senses. In addition to their strong sense of smell, they can hear from over a mile away. Of their special senses, sharks have a part called a lateral line that can sense pressure changes indicating prey nearby.

That’s not all. They have electrical senses that can detect your muscles contracting within close range, including heartbeats. It’s not used for long distances.

Keep in mind, not all sharks are the terrifying apex predators you see on the big screen.

Ramsay points out the majority of sharks are too small and a lot of them don’t have sharp teeth.

Categories: News, Scientifically Speaking