Over the past weeks, Save Our Sharks project officer Linda has been posting a series of reasons why people should start loving sharks. After reason number one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine, comes a reason that is really :
“Sharks have been around since before the dinosaurs.”
The shark is truly a prehistoric animal. Over 450 million years ago, the first species started to pop up in the fossil records. Compared to animals in the current age, most prehistoric animals looked very different and outrageous. And the sharks are no exception.
A species that evolved in the Permian era, around 290 million years ago, was the Helocoprion, which translates to “spiral saw” in Greek. Some 40 million years later, the species went extinct during a large extinction event. The Helocoprion stands out because of its circular lower jaw called a tooth whorl. Another species, Stethacanthus, which went extinct about 323 million years ago, sported an anvil-shaped dorsal fin.
One of the better-known prehistoric sharks was called Megalodon. Some experts assume that it is a direct ancestor of the great white shark, although the debate about it is still up. The teeth of Megalodon, which are the approximate size of a small child’s hand, are found in archeological sites all over the world.
The fact that sharks have been around for so long is also what makes them such highly evolved predators. They have managed to survive five major extinction events and new research suggests that a sixth mass extinction is currently underway, killing off large ocean dwellers (like sharks, whales, giant clams, sea turtles and tuna) in disproportionately greater numbers than smaller animals. Humans are the main cause of this, which is why we should keep working to protect sharks and preserve them for the future. After reading all this, don’t you agree?
By Linda Planthof