The truth about the ocean’s “villains”: Why do we need sharks?

Beijing time on August 5, when it comes to sharks we are always afraid, as a kind of majestic and diverse animals, sharks for the marine ecosystem to bring balance, but they themselves are in serious danger. Every day, an underwater predator stirs as the sun sets over the coral-endling Indonesian Rajaampislands(also known as the Four Kings). As a predator, it’s not particularly big or ferocious. It is only as long as a person’s arm, and there is a bunch of “beards” around the nose.

What makes it unique is that it is not so much swimming on the sea floor as it is about walking on the ocean floor. It uses four fins as legs to twist its body like a lizard; it can climb out of sleep and hold its breath for up to an hour; it strode through exposed rocks, crawling between tidal pools in search of prey.

The long-tailed shark is the newest species of shark in the ocean.

This is a walking shark, belonging to the long-tailed sage shark genus (Hemiscyllium). It presents another image and way of life of sharks, a far cry from the stereotype of such terrible animals. Biologists have found nine long-tailed whiskers in the ocean. They are the most emerging species of shark in the ocean, probably only 9 million years old, with the two youngest species separated less than 2 million years ago. This challenges the long-held view that sharks are ancient and unchanging. They are not survivors of the evolution of the Earth’s past, but animals that continue to adapt to the environment.

Long-tailed sharks are only a small fraction of the wide variety of sharks. From ratchet sharks, crumpled lip sharks to long-kissed real sharks, wide-petal sharks, from cloud-printed slugs, Splendin lanterns to bold light-tailed sharks, Icelandic saw-tailed sharks, and small-headed sleeping sharks, bull sharks and blunt-kissed sharks, there are now more than 500 species of cricket in the world. One in 10 species of sharks has bioluminescence; some are small, you can put it in your pocket, and it has a small pocket of its own, filled with glowing sticky substances. Some sharks can swell up and look bigger and scarier than they actually are. Some female sharks can become pregnant for up to three years at a time, and some can reproduce asexually.

If your knowledge of sharks comes from Hollywood, you might think they’re aquatic scary monsters.

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean, devouring tiny plankton as they travel.

In some of the more plausible films, sharks are portrayed as terrible villains, which is all the more problematic. In 2016, the film Shark Beach tells the story of a female surfer who is attacked by a cruel great white shark. This led a group of marine scientists to write an open letter to Columbia Pictures, warning that the film was dangerously misleading and could make public attitudes toward sharks worse.

In fact, millions of sharks are overfished. As predators, sharks are not used to becoming prey. They grow slowly and go through more than a decade of youth before maturing; Sharks that survive tend to absorb large amounts of man-made pollutants and plastic sons for decades or even centuries. For individual sharks, they are experiencing the world getting hotter and the sea getting sour in their lifetimes; All these unoptimistic results are predictable. According to the latest statistics, a quarter of sharks and other species of cricket are at risk of extinction.

Sharks are important to humans. When they disappear from the ocean, so do many things. We can actually learn a lot from sharks, such as researchers studying how sharks heal wounds quickly and how they develop immunity to many diseases. If they are gone, the historical information of evolution will be lost. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, swimmer Michael Phelps wore a swimsuit inspired by shark skin, with toothy bumps that reduced drag and speed, which helped him win eight gold medals. Later studies have shown that the swimsuit scans bubbles and helps swimmers float on the water, so they are banned.

A leaf shark in corals off the coast of West Papua, Indonesia.

The importance of sharks lies not only in their benefits to humans, but also in their significance to the entire marine ecosystem. Many shark species have proved to be key predators, maintaining the balance of ecosystems, maintaining order, driving out weak, sick prey, preventing the proliferation and dominance of a single species. A study comparing remote islands in the central Pacific suggests that when sharks are fished out, coral reefs can be occupied by small fish, causing algae to flood. We won’t understand how important this species is until we lose it.

Shark protection must be taken seriously. Although no shark species has been as extinct as the ferry bird, many species are already on the brink of extinction. Not only are shark species at risk of declining populations, but their populations are also declining. Just as the continent’s protozoa – bears, wolves, tigers, lions, koalas and parrots – are disappearing, so are sharks in the ocean. The only difference is that most of their disappearance goes unnoticed.

For years, scientists and environmentalists have been saying that sharks fear humans more than we fear them. Statistically, falling vending machines or falling coconuts are more likely to kill than sharks. But there is still a lingering view that sharks are dangerous and cruel, and have a sense of revenge. This fear is not deliberately instigated by the very few people who have been attacked by sharks, many of whom, despite losing their limbs, are still advocates for shark conservation.

These amazing animals are in a much worse position around the world today than they were when the Great White Shark was released in 1975. They need as much positive publicity as possible, and people should learn more about new stories about sharks, including their rich variety and wonderfully complex behavior, as well as other puzzles to explore.