We reserve a special place for the shark as a universally feared predator: the African savannah has its Lions and the Arctic has its Polar Bears… each of them apex predators within their eco-system, emblematic “lords” of their habitat. If the iconic Great White Shark is the oceanic equivalent of a lion or polar bear, why are we more likely to consider it a terror of the ocean than the king of the ocean?
Perhaps their size (up to 20 feet or more in length, weighing over 3,000 pounds), their voracious appetite (they can swallow an adult bull seal whole) or their awesome jaws (with huge, jagged teeth that rotate into the frontline, replacing teeth broken during predation) or the fact they lurk in unknown depths, prevents us from ever identifying with them, as we do with their mammalian counterparts.
As much as we fear them, we are fascinated by them: toys, emblems, movies… recent children’s films attempt a kind of rehabilitation, with two of them featuring “vegetarian” Great Whites… but the image that remains the most potent has to be that of Jaws…
Like land based predators, however, these incredible creatures are under threat: from loss of habitat, competition over food resources, and the global trade in shark finning. Like all predators, sharks play a pivotal role within their ecosystem: when lost, the system faces total collapse.