Megalodon Myths Dispelled: Sharks Deserve Better than 'Shark Week' (Op-Ed)

LiveScience.com
Megalodon Mystery: What Killed Earth's Largest Shark?
.

View photo

A megalodon shark.

Perrin Ireland is senior science communications specialist for the Natural Resources Defense Council. This post was adapted from one that originally appeared on the NRDC blog Switchboard. Ireland contributed this article to LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Earlier this month, as I saw countless shark myths getting airtime during Discovery Channel's "Shark Week," I decided I needed a refreshing reality check on sharks' real lives and current population status.

These questions decidedly weren't being answered on the Discovery Channel (actor Wil Wheaton, among others, held them to task), so I dialed up NRDC's resident "sharkspert," Brad Sewell, who's been working to get great hammerhead and dusky sharks listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act.

"If sharks were in charge, they would call it 'Sharks' Revenge' instead of 'Shark Week,'" Sewell said."The titillating bone-crunching being shown on TV this week would be revenge for what humans do to sharks the other 51 weeks of the year. The reality is that we are a much greater threat to sharks than they are to us. There were a dozen fatal shark attacks in 2011. Around the world, it's been estimated that we kill that many sharks every four seconds, for their meat, liver oil and fins."

Sewell has blogged about the hammerheadand duskyshark petitions he is helping move forward, and I asked him to join me for an update and a few laughs about sharks and lawyers.

In the wake of Shark Week, my colleagues and I at NRDC have been floating in the deep end of the "Cooler than #SharkWeek" pool, a movement started by scientists who love Shark Week, but hate misinforming the public.

You might have seen some kerfluffle about the mockumentary that aired on night one of Shark Week about a long-extinct shark called megalodon. Discovery aired the episode without informing its audience that it was fake. The "scientific experts" that appeared on the show were, in fact, actors.

The Cooler than #SharkWeek army formed in rapid response to the unfortunate lack of science the documentary perpetuated. It was time for a science takeover. The movement was the brainchild of #sharkscienceadvocate Brian Switek, who promised to share real information about nature every day of Shark Week, and kept his word.

The upside of the Discovery Channel blunder is that informed authorities on this extinct shark are coming out of the woodwork to share their knowledge, and it's always satisfying when nature produces a reality that's even more awe-inspiring than the mockumentaries can drum up.

Take a break from the nonsense and tune in to some thrilling shark reality.The publicdeserves a science buffet of great Cooler than #SharkWeek contentto keep the power of sharks, in all their glorious reality, alive.

First, a personal favorite, Christie Wilcox (@NerdyChristie) of Science Sushi at Discover Magazine Blogs who had a cameo on CNN setting the shark science record straight. She tells it like it is in an open letter to Discovery Communications expressing the general sentiments of science-curious audience members who felt really let down by the falsehoods the network perpetuated — they actually claimed that a shark that's been extinct might still be out there, and a threat to humans. The time of the megalodon is past, by the way. Very past. Like 2 million years past.

Wilcox posted an outstanding roundup of the best shark science content she came across during Shark Week. There are juicy links to blogs about how the sharks that we are familiar with today might not even be as cool as the coolest ancient sharks, how you're not going to get attacked by a shark, whether humans can build a shark-proof suit — in case you actually do have a mistaken-identity accident where a shark mistakes you for a seal — how complicated shark reproduction really is, and whether sharks form social networks.

To learn more about the real megalodon, check out Jacquelyn Gill's(@JacquelynGill) post on the Megatooth Shark, which contains some jaw-dropping factual information. There is also some extremely in-depth information from an authentic paleozoologist, Darren Naish, regarding the mighty megalodon and a piece from Brian Switek about how megalodons are thought to have hunted the large whales of their era.

And don't miss the world's largest group of scientists requesting that humans quit referring to mistakes sharks make when hunting prey — mistakes that result in the sharks accidentally grabbing humans — as "shark attacks." See David Shiffman's blog post on Southern Fried Science about the effort to rephrase those events as "shark accidents."

Another dynamite shark science repository is Ed Yong's post on #sharkscience: Like Shark Week, but with Actual Facts. Imagine that! The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's YouTube channel is swimming with informational videos, as well.

So keep cool during the dog days of August reading some killer shark content, and remember: Don't be afraid to go back in the water. Really.

The author wishes to thank Hadley Greswold, Janna D'Ambrisi, Eunice Park and Serena Ingre for video production support. The original post, Cooler than #Shark Week: #SharkScience appeared on the NRDC blog Switchboard. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This article was originally published on LiveScience.com.

Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
View Comments (116)

Recommended for You

  • US billionaire says WWII Japanese ship found in Philippines

    Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen said Wednesday he had found one of Japan's biggest and most famous battleships on a Philippine seabed, some 70 years after American forces sank it during World War II. Excited historians likened the discovery, if verified, to finding the Titanic, as they hailed the…

    AFP
  • Central Florida man killed by police serving search warrant

    By Barbara Liston ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - A 26-year-old Central Florida man died after being shot in the face early on Wednesday morning by a sheriff’s deputy attempting to serve a search warrant in a narcotics investigation, authorities said. The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office reported in a…

    Reuters
  • 175-Pound Pit Bull Hulk Shatters Misconceptions About the Breed

    This dog just may be the world's largest Pit Bull. Only 18-months-old, Hulk weighs a hefty 175 pounds. He's also best friends with a 3-year-old boy.

    ABC News
  • Chad president tells Boko Haram leader to surrender or face death

    By Madjiasra Nako N'DJAMENA (Reuters) - President Idriss Deby of Chad said on Wednesday he knew the whereabouts of Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram, and called on him to surrender or risk being killed. Chad's army has waged a series of battles against Boko Haram…

    Reuters
  • Passengers use emergency slides after landing in Denver

    DENVER (AP) — Passengers on an American Airlines flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, were forced to slide off the plane on emergency chutes soon after landing in Denver on Wednesday.

    Associated Press55 mins ago
  • View

    Turkish jetliner skids off on runway (9 photos)

    A Turkish Airlines jet landing in dense fog in the Nepalese capital Wednesday skidded off a slippery runway but there were no serious injuries, officials said. Officials at Kathmandu's Tribhuwan International Airport said the plane with 238 people on board was coming from Istanbul when the…

    Yahoo News
  • Australians on Indonesia death row arrive on execution island

    Two Australian drug smugglers were taken Wednesday to an Indonesian island where they will be executed despite frantic diplomatic efforts to save them, as Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australia was "revolted" by their looming deaths. Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the…

    AFP
  • Iranian president says Israel 'greatest danger'

    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday said Israel creates the "greatest danger" in the region, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned against a nuclear deal with the Islamic republic. In a speech on Capitol Hill, Netanyahu said Tuesday the nuclear agreement US President…

    AFP
  • U.S. may review 1959 airplane crash that killed Buddy Holly

    (Reuters) - U.S. transportation safety investigators said on Wednesday they are reviewing a request to reopen a probe into the 1959 airplane crash that killed musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. Richardson, better known as "The Big Bopper," and their pilot. The original investigation 56…

    Reuters
  • Former marine reported killed in Syria

    A former Royal Marine has become the first Briton to be killed while fighting with Kurdish forces battling Islamic State jihadists in Syria, leaving his family "devastated" Wednesday. Konstandinos Erik Scurfield, 25, died on Monday in a battle with IS militants, a source in the Kurdish People's…

    AFP
  • Killers sought in deaths of 300,000 chickens in South Carolina

    By Harriet McLeod CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - Revenge may be the motive for the killings in South Carolina of more than 300,000 commercial chickens worth about $1.7 million over the past two weeks, authorities said on Monday. Birds have been found dead of unnatural causes in 16 chicken houses at…

    Reuters
  • Americans Love K-Cups, but Their Creator Regrets Inventing Them

    Now it seems that John Sylvan, the inventor of the tiny containers, is firmly on Team #KillTheKCup too. “No matter what they say about recycling, those things will never be recyclable,” said Sylvan.

    Takepart.com
  • Survivor testifies about 2 friends stabbed, bound, drowned

    PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A man who survived being beaten, bound, stabbed in the neck and kicked into the Schuylkill River took the stand in a hearing Tuesday and described the night his two friends lost their lives.

    Associated Press
  • View

    Hello kitty and kitty and lots more kitties on Japanese island where cats rule (17 photos)

    An army of feral cats rules a remote island in southern Japan, curling up in abandoned houses or strutting about in a fishing village that is overrun with felines outnumbering humans six to one. Originally introduced to the mile-long island of Aoshima to deal with mice that plagued fishermen's…

    Yahoo News
  • Senate fails to override Obama's veto of Keystone XL approval

    By Susan Cornwell WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate failed on Wednesday to override President Barack Obama's veto of legislation approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline, leaving the controversial project to await an administration decision on whether to permit or deny it. The Senate mustered…

    Reuters
  • Paris Hilton brother Conrad to plead guilty to plane assault

    LOS ANGELES (AP) — Paris Hilton's youngest brother, Conrad, agreed to plead guilty to assaulting flight attendants on a trip from London to Los Angeles last year when authorities say he called other passengers "peasants" and threatened to kill crew members.

    Associated Press
  • Father says no proof his son is 'Jihadi John'

    The father of "Jihadi John" said in an interview published Wednesday that there was no proof that his son was the Islamic State executioner, adding there were a number of "false rumours" circulating. "There is nothing that proves what is being circulated in the media, especially through video clips…

    AFP