August 15–17 Spectacular Sharks
by AMNH on
From the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life to the Hall of Vertebrate Origins and the IMAX film Great White Shark, the Museum is a great place to learn about these often-misunderstood predators.
Sharks began evolving about 450 million years ago. Of the roughly 340 living species some have changed little in the past 100 million years. They were the first vertebrate to develop an immune system and may have a greater immunity to cancer than humans. The jaws of Carcharodon megalodon, one of the most famous extinct sharks that lived 10 million years ago, is on view at the Museum.
Shark teeth are made of hard enamel, which may explain why ancient shark teeth are the most commonly found vertebrate fossils today. Some living species replace old and broken teeth as frequently as every ten days. There are no less than 12,000 bull-shark fossil teeth on view in the Museum’s Hall of Vertebrate Origins—approximately the number of teeth a bull-shark will have during its lifetime.
Shark bones are made of light, tough cartilage, which is rarely fossilized. Like other cartilaginous fishes, sharks do not have a gas bladder to keep them afloat so many species must move constantly to keep from sinking. Many sharks have large, oil-filled livers that make them more buoyant. Learn more in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life.
Most sharks bear live young. Some species can remain pregnant for over two years, longer than any other vertebrate. Sharks typically bear three to 12 pups and many do not reproduce until age 30, making it hard for them to recover when large numbers are killed by humans. Watch Great White Shark to learn more about these incredible animals.