NatGeo WILD is devoting the next week to one of the most misunderstood animals on earth: sharks! These amazing creatures deserve more than exaggerated scare tactics and bloody underwater scenes, so we are bringing fun facts about the giant jaws and their crucial roles in their environments. The second annual SharkFest premieres tonight, Sunday August 10, at 8P with Shark Kill Zone, so get ready for a frenzy of killer episodes about the ocean’s top predators.
This film explores the skills behind the bite, featuring in-depth profiles of ten different sharks and their hunting techniques. Even with sharp teeth and bursting speeds, sharks do not always catch an easy dinner. There may be plenty of fish in the sea, but sharks still need to find them, which is not exactly what the fish want. Each shark species has its own hunting techniques, and Shark Kill Zone follows ten species to reveal the diversity and excitement of the hunts that can range from sneaky ambushes to high-speed chases. Regardless of the techniques and hunting grounds, sharks undoubtedly fulfill their roles as top ocean predators. Ten sharks from around the world and an entire army of researchers and videographers come together tonight to show appreciation for these exquisitely designed predators. Here’s a look at nine types of sharks, and what makes each one so unique:
These broad, flat sharks are amazing ambush hunters, burying themselves under the sand on the ocean floor off the coast of California. The kelp forests in the area and the sand coverage provide valuable hiding spaces in which the sharks can stay motionless for days until a hapless fish swims overhead. A tenth of a second later, the sharks’ needle-sharp teeth have grabbed their unsuspecting prey.
These sharks live in the open ocean and hunt fish like tuna. With such fast prey to catch, the mako has to be even faster. Their bodies cut through the water at lightning fast speeds to hunt down their dashing, but ultimately doomed, dinner.
Caribbean Reef Shark
Unsurprisingly, these sharks primarily hunt in reefs, and their bodies are remarkably well-adapted for the task. They have a crucial set of fins that allow it to turn on a dime. This is important because Caribbean reef sharks need to be able to twist and turn rapidly in order to catch anything in all the nooks and crannies of reefs. As such, they are one of the most agile sharks in the ocean.
Grey Reef Shark
As their name suggests, grey reef sharks utilize their coral-filled surroundings to the fullest. They hunt at oceanic atolls, which are ring-shaped coral reefs that usually encircle a smaller body of water. These sharks can smell fish on the approaching tide, hunting the ones that are moving out with it. They can catch the fish either in the reef, which requires masterful agility, or in the open ocean, which requires incredible speed.
Dusky and Copper Sharks
These two species of sharks hunt in a very similar manner. They wait for dolphins to drive schools of sardines to the surface, where the sardines tightly group together in a baitball for protection, and then take advantage of the dolphins’ efforts. The sharks force the dolphins away from their hard-earned meal with their frantic and aggressive behavior, and then they launch into the center of the baitball snapping away at the fish. They are not solitary, and indeed other animals such as bronze whaler sharks, seals, gannets, and Bryde’s whales may even join in the attack in South Africa.
The biggest fish in the sea is actually one of the least aggressive sharks around. The whale shark cruises around Mexico with a gaping mouth open, ready to catch inattentive prey. These filter feeders sift plankton through their gills as they meander around the warm waters. They even gather as a group to feed during seasonal fish-spawning events.
Curious and quick, blue sharks hunt in the open ocean. They glide along until they see a possible target. Their investigations open with an extraordinary burst of speed, lunging forward unexpectedly in a sudden break from their usual cruising speeds.
Great White Shark
The greatest hunting shark of all is an ambush predator that lurks stealthily 10 meters below the surface of the water, keeping an upturned eye for seals on their way to their island colony. Upon spotting one, great white sharks fly upward like a torpedo, bursting in a terrifying explosion of energy that could result in an epic chase if the seal initially escapes. These sharks are known for their amazing breach attacks, which National Geographic has tried to capture from the sharks’ own point of view.
Whitetip Reef Shark
Another species of reef shark, these creatures also work the intricate mazes of coral reefs to their advantage. They hunt in packs, dozens of them approaching the reef at night for a mass feeding frenzy. They plunge headfirst into the reef, sending fish flying out and then giving pursuit to catch them. This feeding tactic is both iconic and ingenious, a true testament to sharks’ remarkable predatory reputation.
Be sure to tune in to NatGeo WILD to watch SharkFest all week, which begins tonight, Sunday August 10 at 8P, with Shark Kill Zone!