Sharks are one of the most popular subjects when it comes to studying sea life. Yet there are still a lot of myths out there about them that can leave students confused or even scared! It’s time to set the record straight. The next time you do a shark unit in your classroom, make sure your students aren’t committing to memory these common myths!
MYTH 1: Sharks are huge.
There are so many sharks in the world—about 400+ species, and maybe even others that scientists have yet to discover. Most sharks are smaller than an average human. The next time you go on a field trip to an aquarium or museum, try to find a shark and really look at and discuss its size with your students.
MYTH 2: Sharks are dangerous.
Can sharks be dangerous? Sometimes—mostly when they’re scared. Are they usually dangerous? Not really. Have your students research “deadly animals” in the world and then report back with their results. We love this article about 25 things more likely to kill you than a shark, which includes coconuts, mosquitoes and cows.
MYTH 3: Shark attacks are common.
You should ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings when you’re in the ocean, but shark attacks aren’t really all that common. In the United States, there are just 16 attacks a year on average. Most are done by great white sharks.
MYTH 4: Sharks like to eat people.
There’s a misconception that all sharks eat meat, therefore they want to eat people. While many sharks are carnivores, preying on both large and small marine life as part of their daily diet, there are some that don’t eat meat at all. The whale shark is the largest shark in the world, and it actually eats plankton!
MYTH 5: Sharks are scary.
Humans seem to love being scared by sharks. Good ol’ Jaws and the creepy music helped popularize that, but the truth is sharks shouldn’t be seen as scary. They are fascinating, amazing, beautiful creatures. Have your students research some of those cool and fascinating facts to share with their peers.
MYTH 6: Sharks only live in the ocean.
Get ready to have your mind blown! While most sharks do live in saltwater (aka the oceans), there are some that live in freshwater. For instance, bull sharks live in both ocean and fresh water. They have this amazing ability called osmoregulation—it’s pretty cool. Look it up with your students!
MYTH 7: Sharks aren’t very smart.
If you want to give your students a compliment, tell them they’re as smart as a shark! These creatures are some of the smartest in the ocean. Check out this article that backs this up.
MYTH 8: Sharks hang out at the top of the water.
This is another myth that stems from movies—you know, the shark fin snaking through the water menacingly! But most sharks don’t stick around the surface. You’ll probably never see them up close because they’re deep down in the water.
MYTH 9: Sharks have a terrible sense of smell.
Wait—where did this myth come from? It’s a terrible one and not true at all. They have an excellent sense of smell and can sometimes detect prey up to one-fourth of a mile away.
MYTH 10: Sharks lay eggs.
This one is true … and not true. Yes, some sharks lay eggs, but then others give birth live! Have your students research this to do a compare-contrast between species.