Shark Week: Day 5…Welcome to Planet Shark
Hey hey hey shark lovers! Its Friday and hopefully your only weekend plans are staying inside and soaking up the sharks. That’s preeeeeeetty much my plans (+ a glass of wine!). Last night featured an epic 2-hour special, Shark Planet, which was again preceded by a Sharkopedia replay of a previous show. This time the show was Monster Mako – one of my favs of the week! We got to see a little additional footage and those fun shark facts and trivia but this time on a show worth watching a second time. Starting the night off right! Now, how was the 2-hour special?
1. Shark Planet
So Discovery Channel previewed this on their site and social media as “The Planet Earth of Sharks” which already led me on with high hopes.
Planet Earth, and Blue Planet, are two of my favorite BBC/Discovery documentaries ever! Shark Planet is actually a 3 part BBC special that Discovery condensed into a 2-hour special with an American narrator, which again should mean that it will be amazing…
AND IT WAS. Literally, this may be the best animal documentary I have EVER SEEN. EVER.
The camera work was absolutely breathtaking and the 2 hours were jam packed with so many amazing shark facts. I literally lost count of how many different species were shown and the ones that were shown varied from well known species, like great whites, to relatively unheard of species, like the epaulette shark. I took some notes on everything so I will try to sum it all up BUT fair warning, there are so many amazing things to include that this may be a long read. Basic facts from the show include: there are about 510 identified species of sharks, they have cartilage instead of bone which is more flexible and also heals faster, sharks are able use electromagnetic fields to locate prey and other living things in the ocean, and that shark skin is made of little teeth like scales called dermal denticles (denticle = small tooth in Latin!).
The show jumps around between different locations and themes regarding the sharks that they will feature. The first shark in the spotlight is the blacktip shark. We get to see how these normally solitary sharks work together in large groups to hunt. Essentially, they herd small fish into large bait balls and then begin feeding. Due to this tactic and the sheer number of sharks feeding, the small fish – in this case anchovies – are unable to escape and are easy prey for the hungry sharks. This was really interesting to see how methodical the sharks were in forcing the fish tighter into a ball and that they didn’t engage in a “classic” feeding frenzy.
Next up was the tasseled wobbegong, which looks like a carpet for the reef (they are actually referred to as carpet sharks!). These guys are master of camouflage – they blend in perfectly with the reefs and their tail even mimics a swimming fish to lure fish into a false sense of security. When a fish gets close enough, the wobbegong sucks it in and swallows it whole. We got an awesome video of this one as well as the blacktips feeding. Amazing shots! Our next shark was a mako for the FOURTH time this week! Nothing new to learn as they mostly talked about their speed and agility, but more amazing video of them swimming is always a win for me!
Of course you can’t have a shark special without great whites. Thankfully, instead of regurgitating the usual info we got to see scientists studying the body language and subtle signals that great whites give off to each other and to divers. This was so so so awesome to see because I had no idea this occured! Scientists can use this info not only to learn more about these sharks but also may be able to use this to help protect swimmers and other divers.
Some of the best shots of the show were when they were highlighting the Greenland shark, which I was really really hoping they would show! Greenland sharks are massive, slow movers that live under the ice in the Arctic. We got to see amazing shots of divers swimming under thick sheets of ice. So beautiful, but you couldn’t pay me money to swim in frigid waters knowing my only way out was one ice hole! The show mentions that some of these sharks have lived to be 200 years old – which is insane. Parasites called copepods live on their eyes (so gross) and over time blind them. The sharks make up for this with their amazing sense of smell – they can find a dead polar bear miles away. Other deep-dwelling/odd sharks shown were the frill shark and the goblin shark which have both been featured in Alien Shark shows.
A few of the sharks featured I have only seen in passing glance on previous documentaries. First was the epaulette shark which has two amazing features – it can survive outside of the water by shutting down its organs to conserve oxygen AND it can walk on its fins to find tidal pools. This shark is adorable and has all these amazing traits. So fun to watch! Another not-often-seen shark is the Port Jackson shark which has an adorable pig nose, as well as eggs in a funky corkscrew shape to help wedge them between rocks to ensure they will survive. In showing the eggs, we were also introduced to crested horn sharks which look very similar to the Port Jackson. These guys are actually the main predator of Port Jackson eggs and have teeth that can crush the sturdy shell and suck out the “yolk”. We also again saw the swell shark that was featured in Alien Sharks early this week. Swell sharks are biofluorescent and scientists are using the protein that creates this biofluorescence to study things like cancer and Alzheimer’s.
I was really excited to see that this show also featured rays – from mobula rays that number 250,000 in one school in the Sea of Cortez to giant manta rays that have individual personalities and interact with scientists. Giant manta rays have the largest brain of any fish and new research shows that this may be connected to their large social gatherings. It was really sweet to see these giant rays with 20 ft wingspans swimming and almost playing with the divers.
I could go on and on about this special, but this post is already insanely long. I HIGHLY recommend seeing this documentary – more than once! – and I know for sure I will be buying the 3 hour BBC version (this was just titled Shark). This was a beautifully made and much needed documentary that was made even better by the last 30 minutes or so focusing primarily on how necessary the conservation of these creatures really is. They talked about shark finning and overfishing, as well as poorly used fishing tactics that catch sharks and rays unintentionally but are causing the deaths of millions each year. Sharks are the doctors of the sea; they keep populations in check and can tell us how healthy an ecosystem really is. I’m so appreciative of Discovery for really pushing this message and I hope they continue to do so. Shark Week has millions of viewers and if these viewers can be moved to act on saving these sharks, maybe we can finally help save them from further harm.
TWO FINS UP x A MILLION!
How did you like Planet Shark? Obsessed like me? Let us know in the comments.