marine life of Namibia
There are over 350 species of shark worldwide and over 100 of these live in the waters of southern Africa. A shark is a fish but unlike any other species their skeletons are not made of bone, but of cartilage. Fish breathe through a single pair of gills, but sharks have between 5 and 7 gills situated on the side of the head. They are unable to fold away their their fins when they are not being used as other fish can do.
Most sharks eat other fish but some only plankton, the favoured food of most whales. They have powerful jaws with lots of pointed sharp teeth to grip their prey. It is a common belief that sharks attack humans, but this is rarely the case. When viewed from the water below the surface, the shape of a human can be mistaken by the shark for that of a Cape fur seal or sea turtle perhaps and as many a surfer can testify, the shark hones in for a bit of blubber or crunchy meat it thinks is a seal or a turtle.
Sharks do not have scales. They have numerous small teeth-like denticles, which cover their bodies and protect them at the same time. They have the same streamlined bodies as fish, enabling them to move very quickly through the water. Their sense of smell is excellent and their predatory skills are enhanced by a special organ, called the Ampullae of Lorenzini, which detects minute electronic fields in other fish's heartbeats.
Common sharks found in the Namibian waters include:
- Sixgill cowshark (Hexanchus griseus)
- Great white Shark (Carcharodon carcharias)
- Sand Shark (Carcharias taurusare)
- Spotted Gully Shark (Triakis megalopterus)
- Thintail thresher shark (Alopias vulpinus)
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