Do you enjoy swimming in the ocean? If you’ve ever watched a scary movie like Jaws, you may feel a little anxious about the possibility of encountering sea creatures beneath the surface. Could there be a massive, man-eating shark lurking just beyond the breaking waves?
The good news is that the answer is…probably not! While shark attacks are occasionally reported, they are actually quite rare. At most beaches around the world, the chances of having fun are very high, while the chances of a shark attack are very low.
Sharks have captivated the interest of both children and adults for many years. These formidable ocean predators can move through the water with astonishing speed. Their sharp teeth can instill fear in anyone who sees them up close.
If you’ve watched enough movies or TV shows about sharks, you might think that all sharks are enormous. However, that is not entirely true. There are many different types of sharks, and some of them are actually quite small.
But, of course, there are also some gigantic sharks. And that is what today’s Wonder of the Day is all about. So, just how big is the largest shark?
The answer depends on whether you are referring to the largest shark alive today or the largest shark to have ever existed on Earth. These are two different sharks of different sizes.
The largest shark to have ever existed on Earth is believed by scientists to be the megalodon. Its name comes from the Greek words that mean “big tooth.” The megalodon is an extinct species of shark that inhabited Earth’s waters over 1.5 million years ago.
Not only was it the largest shark to have ever existed on Earth, but scientists also believe it was one of the biggest and most powerful predators of all time. Fossils of megalodon have been discovered, leading scientists to estimate that this giant shark could have grown to a length of over 50 feet and weighed over 50 tons!
Today, the largest shark swimming in the oceans is the massive whale shark. Unlike the megalodon, whale sharks are not predators. Instead, they are slow-moving giants that primarily feed on plants and plankton.
Although not as large as the megalodon, whale sharks are still very big. They can reach lengths of over 40 feet and weigh over 15 tons, making them the largest fish in the world. These gentle creatures often allow swimmers to hitch a ride with them as they swim along coral reefs.
Give It a Try
Are you ready to go swimming in the ocean and search for sharks? Make sure to explore the following activities with a friend or family member:
- If you are a fan of sharks, make sure to visit National Geographic’s Photo Gallery: Sharks online. Which shark would you not want to encounter while swimming in the ocean? What is the most intriguing thing about sharks for you?
- Were you aware that sharks continuously lose and regrow their teeth? Many individuals have taken up the hobby of searching for and collecting shark teeth. Read the article Why Do People Collect Shark Teeth? online to discover more about shark teeth and this fascinating pastime!
- Have you ever wondered what life is like for a whale shark? Go online and watch National Geographic’s Whale Shark video. Scientists attached National Geographic’s Crittercam to whale sharks near Australia’s Ningaloo Reef. In this location, tourists have the opportunity to swim with whale sharks. The scientists wanted to observe how the whale sharks interacted with tourists. Watch the video to find out what they learned!
Sources of Wonder