These beautiful shark facts and pictures will give you 10 reasons to love them.
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Discovery - Racing Extinction

There's a reason why we're told to live every week like it's Shark Week.

GIF via “Step Brothers."


Sharks are simultaneously some of the most exhilarating and terrifying forces of nature on the planet.

They are glorious, majestic apex predators that affect entire ecosystems with their toothy, subaqueous badassery and demand our constant admiration and respect.

Hear me roar. All shark photos via iStock.

But they're also probably one of the most misunderstood species on the planet.

Thankfully, they're just one of many featured in "Racing Extinction" — a terrifyingly beautiful film that soon premieres on Discovery Channel. But before we get to that, let's explain why you should care about one of the many species showcased in that film — sharks!

Here are 10 facts that explain why we love sharks (and why you should if you don't).

1. Sharks promote bio-diversity.

'Sup everyone?

Apex predators like sharks actually increase the wildlife diversity of the ecosystems they live in by preying on the most available species, in turn preventing them from over-consuming the resources of a given area.

2. Sharks are fast. Like really, really fast.

Let's race.

Shortfin mako sharks are called the cheetahs of the sea. While they cruise around 20 mph, they've been observed notching speeds upward of 50 mph in a burst to nab prey. This video has one hitting 68 miles an hour before devouring a bluefish. Experts caution it's really difficult to accurately measure mako speeds, but still — it puts a whole new spin on "fast food," does it not?

3. Sharks are AMAZING listeners.

"Tell me more about growing up in the north tropical Atlantic."

A shark can hear a fish thrashing in the water from nearly 2,000 feet away — that's over one Freedom Tower away.

4. Fear of sharks is basically the ocean's answer to birth control.

"Walk into the club like..."

Through intimidation alone, sharks are able to control other species of fish from overpopulating by forcing them to lessen their reproductive habits and alter their migratory patterns. Effective!

5. Speaking of birth control, they're naturally good at it.

"Ah remember this time last year? We were at the beach without a care in the world."

While sharks may live long, prosperous lives (up to 25 years), they actually grow slowly and produce very few offspring in comparison to most fish. The average litter of a Great White, for instance, is just two to 10 pups a year, with a gestation period lasting as long as two years (!!).

6. Shark embryos have built-in security systems.

Hello, ocean!

Not only do sharks detect their prey by tracking the electric fields they emit, but some shark embryos can actually do the same with predators, recognizing the electric fields they put out and responding by completely shutting down their respiratory functions.

7. More sharks = fewer diseases.

"I know carcass isn't fancy, but it really hits the spot when you're hungry."

Sharks typically feed on the weakest and sickest members of their prey colonies and even scavenge the sea floor to feast on dead carcasses, acting as a sort of oceanwide CDC (more like sea-d-sea, amiright?!) by preventing potentially fatal diseases from spreading and even strengthening the gene pools of these hunted species.

8. Seriously, like even our diseases.

We owe you, big time.

Both humans and sharks have an immune system that relies on antibodies to prevent and fight disease, but the shark's immune system is unique in that it actually contains large quantities of urea, an excreted substance that keeps them from dehydrating.

Since urea actually destabilizes antibodies, sharks have also developed several molecular adaptations to prevent urea from making them vulnerable to diseases, which researchers are now applying to human antibodies in the hopes of turning us into invulnerable Terminators, more or less.

9. That tuna salad you're eating? Thank a shark.

This time, the food chain tables have turned, sea birds.

If hungry sharks weren't keeping down the seabird population, some species of tuna might be facing extinction since they are the go-to meal of these winged assailants. Tiger sharks are credited with eating about 10% of the albatross population annually, and great whites have even beached themselves seeking a seagull appetizer.

10. And while you're at it, thank them for the coral reefs we all love so much.

Just coral reefin', the way I usually do.

When sharks are removed from reef ecosystems, the population of plant-eating fish species in reefs also drops, leading to overgrown algae that suffocates what few growing reefs we have left. The same goes for seagrass, which tiger sharks also help make flourish by keeping sea turtles from overgrazing and subsequently destroying their own habitats.

For all the bad press they get, sharks are basically the omnipresent healers of the ocean, which makes this next fact all the more unbelievable.

There's still one terrifying truth about sharks.

Large shark populations have declined by over 90% in the last generation alone and are facing extinction due to a variety of factors — chief among them, overfishing and fin poaching.

For every human killed by a shark, 2 million sharks are killed by humans, with over 200,000 sharks being killed in the fin trade per day.

The extinction of several shark species within our lifetime is a very real possibility that would lead to disastrous environmental effects.

That's why Racing Extinction recently created a quiz to shed some light on this pressing issue.

We are the last generation that can put an end to shark finning.

Yeah! So, head over to their website, take the quiz, and pass it along to your friends to help spread the word.

That, or get used to the idea of living in a world where Shark Week doesn't exist, which is just…

GIF via "That '70s Show."

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

I'll never forget the exhilaration I felt as I headed into the city on July 3, 2018. My pink hair was styled. I wore it up in a high ponytail, though I left two tendrils down. Two tendrils which framed my face. My makeup was done. I wore shadow on my eyes and blush on my cheeks, blush which gave me color. Which brought my pale complexion to life. And my confidence grew each time my heels clacked against the concrete.

My confidence grew with each and every step.

Why? Because I was a strong woman. A city woman. A woman headed to interview for her dream job.

I nailed the interview. Before I boarded the bus back home, I had an offer letter in my inbox. I was a news writer, with a salary and benefits, but a strange thing happened 13 months later. I quit said job in an instant. On a whim. I walked down Fifth Avenue and never looked back. And while there were a few reasons why I quit that warm, summer day: I was a new(ish) mom. A second-time mom, and I missed my children. Spending an hour with them each day just wasn't enough. My daughter was struggling in school. She needed oversight. Guidance. She needed my help. And my commute was rough. I couldn't cover the exorbitant cost of childcare. The real reason I quit was because my mental health was failing.


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Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

I'll never forget the exhilaration I felt as I headed into the city on July 3, 2018. My pink hair was styled. I wore it up in a high ponytail, though I left two tendrils down. Two tendrils which framed my face. My makeup was done. I wore shadow on my eyes and blush on my cheeks, blush which gave me color. Which brought my pale complexion to life. And my confidence grew each time my heels clacked against the concrete.

My confidence grew with each and every step.

Why? Because I was a strong woman. A city woman. A woman headed to interview for her dream job.

I nailed the interview. Before I boarded the bus back home, I had an offer letter in my inbox. I was a news writer, with a salary and benefits, but a strange thing happened 13 months later. I quit said job in an instant. On a whim. I walked down Fifth Avenue and never looked back. And while there were a few reasons why I quit that warm, summer day: I was a new(ish) mom. A second-time mom, and I missed my children. Spending an hour with them each day just wasn't enough. My daughter was struggling in school. She needed oversight. Guidance. She needed my help. And my commute was rough. I couldn't cover the exorbitant cost of childcare. The real reason I quit was because my mental health was failing.


Keep Reading Show less
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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."