Shark Week is Here
By: Kyle Grammatica
It’s Shark Week! To celebrate, let’s examine the critical role sharks play in the ecosystem and learn more about some of Florida’s native shark species.
The Importance of Sharks
Sharks are apex predators at the top of their respective food chain. They regulate all other levels of the food chain, ensuring balance in the ecosystem. Sharks also help control the distribution of other species through intimidation. Their presence causes some species to alter their habitat use and activity level, preventing the monopolization of limited resources and allowing all to thrive. Sharks also help provide food sources for scavenger species and remove the sick and weak individuals from prey populations, leading to the better health of the prey population as a whole.
Studies have shown that the presence of sharks leads to greater biodiversity and higher densities of individuals. Without sharks, there is the potential for unchecked predation by other lower predatory species, overeating of vegetation by herbivorous prey species, and increased competition that harms the health of the ecosystem. Sharks are a necessary component to maintaining an ocean full of diversity and life.
Sharks have inhabited Earth’s oceans for millions of years, but their populations have fallen substantially in recent years. Many shark species have been excessively hunted, putting them at risk of extinction. Commercial fishing for shark fins alone results in millions of shark deaths each year. Given their essential role in maintaining a healthy ocean, their loss is a grave concern.
Florida Shark Species
Florida is home to a variety of shark species.
- Great White Sharks – While not as common as many other species, Florida is no stranger to these large predators. When great white sharks are documented in the state, they are usually in deep water off the coast hunting for fish.
- Bull Sharks – Bull sharks are aggressive, opportunistic feeders. Bull sharks have the strongest bite force of any shark species relative to their size. They are also able to survive in both salt and freshwater.
- Shortfin Mako Sharks – Shortfin makos are a highly migratory species that moves seasonally throughout its range. They are incredibly hydrodynamic and can reach speeds of over 40 mph in short bursts. Their speed allows them to leap high out of the water.
- Thresher Sharks – Thresher sharks have a large tail fin upper lobe, nearly equal to the length of their body. They are known to hunt in groups and use their large tails to herd and stun their prey.
- Tiger Sharks – The appropriately named tiger shark has vertical bar markings on its sides that fade with age. They are voracious feeders that will eat almost anything, even garbage!
Help us protect these sharks’ habitat by purchasing our Discover Florida Ocean’s plate. $25 from every plate sold goes to conserve Florida’s oceans and ensure they are full of marine life, including sharks!