The media likes to give wrong ideas about a lot of different subjects, and sharks are no exception to this rule (We’re looking at YOU, Discovery Channel). It’s good to be critical of what you read or watch on most subjects, and to do your own research in order to find out whether or not what you’re being told is true. This #SharkWeek, we rounded up a few myths about sharks and have given you some sources to help you debunk them.
MYTH ONE: Sharks are Immune to Cancer
This myth is a pretty harmful one. First of all, sharks are not immune to cancer. Humans have actually known this since 1908, but that didn’t stop the idea of the opposite spreading like a cancer itself.
The myth’s been around since the 70s, but in the 90s, two books helped spread the myth even further. In 1992, a book entitled “Sharks Don’t Get Cancer — How Shark Cartilage Could Save Your Life” was published by Avery Publishing. The book’s inside text never claimed that sharks never get cancer (despite the title of the book), but it did claim that they rarely got cancer. In ’96, a sequel was published entitled “Sharks Still Don’t Get Cancer”.
The author of the book, I. William Lee, was convinced that because sharks supposedly rarely got cancer, that there was some kind of secret hidden in the cartilage of a shark that helped prevent the disease from spreading. However, there was no scientific basis for this claim at the time, and there still is none. This claim led to the killings of sharks — millions of them — in order to sell cartilage pills.
In 2013, there was a tumor found in a Great White Shark, further dispelling the myth that sharks are immune to cancer. Scientists have documented tumors in at least 23 different species of shark.
MYTH TWO: Shark Fins Grow Back
Shark Finning is a practice where people remove the fins from sharks — often sharks that are alive — and toss them overboard. People fin sharks for the same reason someone may remove tusks from an elephant: for money. The idea that the sharks can live on from this horrible mistreatment is not true.
Without their fins, sharks cannot swim properly. Without the ability to swim, they quickly die, unable to do anything but sink to the ocean and either die on their own, or be eaten by some other sea creature. Sharks are not lizards. A lizard may be able to grow back its tail (after over 60 days), but they also remove their tail in the first place as a means of self defense. This is a matter of self defense that sharks do not have.
MYTH THREE: The Megalodon is Still Alive
No, no, no. You can’t believe everything you see on Discovery Channel, even if it is during Shark Week. In 2013, a mockumentary aired on the Discovery Channel, claiming that the Megalodon had possibly been sighted. But, again, this was a fake documentary set on getting good ratings for the channel that year. It wasn’t the first time that Discovery had done something like this either, having done the same thing with the myth of mermaids the year prior.
Megalodons are very much non existent in today’s day and age. Scientists are still debating on what could have killed off this gigantic shark.
On a side tangent, I hope no one who watched Shark Week this year thought that Olympian Micheal Phelps really had a chance against the Great White they had him race.
MYTH FOUR: When Attacked by a Shark — Punch it in the Nose
According to Dr. David Shiffman, punching a shark to get out of what could be a bad situation isn’t the best way to go about it. “Have you ever tried punching underwater?” He asked me. “It’s a great exercise for senior citizens, but is otherwise of limited utility.”
Instead, if you do end up in a situation like that (which is more rare than you might think, mind you), go for the shark’s eye. Poking the eye is a much better means of escape.