On the surface, it might seem like an ocean without sharks would be a more enjoyable place. But, these predators play a very important role in the ocean ecosystem and they need our protection just like many other ocean dwelling creatures.
Sharks have been at the top of the food chain for hundreds of millions of years, but today their populations are in danger because of human activities, such as overfishing and finning (this is when people catch sharks, remove the fins, and dump the carcass overboard).
Andrew P. Nosal, Ph. D, Birch Aquarium’s new DeLaCour Postdoctoral Fellow for Ecology and Conservation, shares his shark expertise with the Perspectives on Ocean Science series in order to explain that all sharks are not the evil villains seen in movies, but are essential in maintaining a balanced ocean.
Leopard sharks are a special species of shark found only along the West coast of North America, their territory spanning from Washington to Baja California. A distinctive characteristic of these creatures is their mild temperament. Unlike most sharks, which will bite anything that might be food, leopard sharks are timid and have such small mouths that they pose essentially no danger to humans. In fact, a leopard shark bite on a human has never been recorded by the International Shark Attack File.
Every Summer La Jolla Shores is the gathering site of hundreds of leopard sharks. A common misconception of this behavior is that these sharks convene here to mate or give birth, but in fact scientists are not quite certain what they do at this annual conference.
Summertime in San Diego means the return of leopard sharks to La Jolla Shores. Contrary to popular belief, these sharks – 97% of which are pregnant females – are not giving birth or mating during their stay.
Tonight (Oct. 10) at 8, join Andy Nosal, a Scripps Ph.D. student who studies local leopards, to find out what scientists really think is going on. Discover what gadgets Nosal uses to track the sharks and learn what makes La Jolla the animals’ preferred hang out. Find out why this shark population is particularly vulnerable and how the local no-take marine reserve protects it.