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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 Picsea on Unsplash
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Photo by Picsea on Unsplash
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