Chapter Twelve: The Shark: In which the True Nature of the Man-Eating, Elasmobranchs is Revealed, Including their Forays into our Waters, our Subconscious, and our Cinema.

To start off – sharks do not interest me at all. But in case YOU like sharks, here are some cool facts:

1. The word “shark” comes from the German “schurk” or “schurke,” meaning “scoundrel” or “villain.”

2. In the Paleozoic era (~450 million years ago) there was a 4′ creature called Cladoselache. At 4′ and with a nonbony skeleton, it is considered to be one of the earliest chondrichthians (cartilaginous fishes).

3. There are more than 350 species of sharks; they range from the 6″ dwarf shark Squaliolus laticaudus to the largest fish in the world, the 50′ whale sharkRhincodon typus.

4. The great white shark was originally known as Canis carcharias, or the “dog shark.” In early times, sharks were referred to as “dogfishes” or “sea dogs.”

5. The largest great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) ever measured was 21′ long and weighed 7,300 pound (caught off the coast of Cuba in 1948).

6. The biggest shark ever was Carcharodon megalodon. Thankfully, it became extinct about 100,000 years ago. It was more than 50′ long and was “probably the most terrifying predator that ever lived” (Ellis 341). This shark’s teeth were almost 8″ long.

7. Fossilized shark teeth are called “tongue stones” (glossopetrae) because they were thought to be the petrified tongues of snakes from St. Paul’s actions on the island of Malta.

8. “In other animals, we can study how cancer forms. In sharks, we can study how cancer does not form” (Ellis 355). Sharks are very resistant to cancer; a seriously wounded shark can heal in 24 hours; a lacerated cornea on a shark heals rapidly and with no damage to the shark’s vision; and, shark liver oil is called squalene.

An interesting word from this chapter:

“Scuttlebutt” – (nautical) an open cask of drinking water; or, a drinking fountain for use of the crew of a vessel; (informal) rumor or gossip. 

WTF: This chapter says that “People have been swimming recreationally for only about 150 years” (Ellis 340). That is completely insane. I know in my heart that people have always loved to swim!