A wide variety of creatures dwell in the depths of the world's oceans, with sharks being some of the most mysterious. Although there's a vast array of fish in the sea, vulnerable shark species are still falling victim to a number of threats, resulting in rapidly thinning populations - with humans playing a major part in the destruction. According to a study by researchers at the Stellenbosch University in South Africa, ocean acidification is damaging shark populations by corroding the protective scales on the outer layer of their skin. With rare and endangered sharks becoming more scarce, the majority of us would be lucky to catch a glimpse of them in the wild at all.
Even if you do happen to stumble upon one, you might not even be able to tell that it's a shark at first, as not every shark out there resembles the stereotypical great white. The variety of sharks that reside in the open and coastal waters of the world are all majestic and unique in their own right, with biological oddities proving that nature is just as unusual as it is beautiful.
Although it's a vulnerable species, the dusky shark resides everywhere from the coasts to the outer continental shelves of tropical waters across the globe. The dusky shark is an apex predator, meaning it's at the top of the ocean food chain. Since the '70s, the dusky shark's population has declined 80-85% in the Western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico due to the high value of its fins for shark fin soup, its meat and skin, and its liver oil.
This apex shark poses a bit of a threat to humans, having the most powerful bite of any species of shark.
Making its home on the very bottom of the continental shelf and slope, the frilled shark does a good job of remaining incognito. When seen, it's easy to mistake this slithery creature for an eel. The frilled shark's brown body makes it look shockingly similar to an eel, but it acts more like a snake, rearing back and striking at its prey to catch it.
This shark holds the longest gestation period of any vertebrate, carrying its offspring in its womb for up to three and a half years.
Whale sharks can grow up to 41 1/2 feet long, weigh up to 30 tons, and live for 100 years. Posing no threat to humans, they prefer to feed on plankton in the open waters of the tropics and are one of only three sharks classified as filter feeders - the other two being megamouth sharks and basking sharks.
Despite their size, these massive sharks have become endangered due to being targeted by fisheries, being victims of bycatch when other fish are caught, and vessel strikes. These threats, combined with their long life span and late maturation, have caused their numbers to become drastically reduced.
Scalloped Hammerhead Shark
As a distinguished member of the hammerhead shark family, the scalloped hammerhead is now on the verge of extinction. Cruising coastal waters for food, the shark uses its broadly shaped head, equipped with sensing organs called ampullae of Lorenzini, to locate prey (such as sting rays) buried in the sand.
Scalloped hammerheads often swim in schools, making them easy targets for fishermen. Popular for their meat and fins, which are highly sought for shark fin soup, they have been excessively fished, leading to greatly reduced numbers.