For those of you that have not seen Sharknado, read no further. Close down this page, cancel your afternoon meetings and go watch that movie! For those of you that have already been blessed by the shark swirling, storm spectacular, cinematic sensation that was the first Sharknado, I welcome you.
As some of you may be aware, the sequel to this movie masterpiece is just around the corner. With promise of more sharks, more action and more blood, we could be in for another history making extravaganza! When it comes to auditions, the casting of your lead characters will be fundamental to the success of the film. Now what you may not have considered however, is that animals must also audition for their roles. After seeing the success of the first film, shark species from around the world sent in entries to try to get a piece of the Sharknado pie. Below are just some of the entries and my top seven flying sharks.
LEMON SHARK (Negaprion brevirostris) The Bimini Biological Field Station in the Bahamas, is renowned for its research on lemon sharks. Now, whilst the pens, as seen below, were initially constructed for behavioural experiments, it is now thought the social learning capabilities in lemon sharks have allowed for the formation of a stage one sharknado. This circular schooling may also be a natural social behaviour observed in lemon sharks that may reduce predatory risk, enhance foraging and facilitate social learning, but who knows….my money is still on sharknado!
THRESHER SHARK (Alopias vulpinus) The thresher shark uses its whip like tail to stun schools of small pelagic fish before feeding on them. Often swimming quickly into bait balls, they may breach as a consequence of this hunting. It has also been suggested that it may be to dislodge parasites from their gill arches. It is still not clear why this behaviour is commonly observed but it sure is something to be admired! Good effort.
SHORTFIN MAKO SHARK (Isurus oxyrinchus) One of the fastest sharks in the ocean, mako sharks utilise their muscular build to undertake large oceanic migrations. “Flying” is often observed when these sharks are caught on fishing lines and are trying to shake the pesky hooks from their jaws.
BASKING SHARK (Cetorhinus maximus) Usually seen in surface waters feeding on plankton, these sharks rarely leave their watery world. When they do however, it is thought to act as a function of social communication. Females may breach to announce maturity and males may breach as a result of courtship displays, to signify dominance over other males.
VELVET BELLY LANTERN SHARK (Etmopterus spinax) Typically living between 200-700 meters, these sharks are rarely seen in surface waters. Whilst collecting images of these sharks in the Mediterranean, I observed an attempted predation event during an unexpected helicopter training exercise. It is still unclear if this behaviour of attacking helicopters occurs naturally, on a regular basis or even with live individuals.
WHITE SHARK (Carcharodon carcharias) In areas with high seal concentrations, white shark have developed an astonishing technique to increase predation success rates. Seals, being mammals, must breathe air regularly. Taking advantage of this weakness, white sharks are able to ambush their potential meal from below. By swimming to the surface with great speed and force, they can attack their prey off-guard but often leave the water when trying to do so.
SPINNER SHARK (Carcharhinus brevipinna) Capable of possibly one of the greatest aerial manoeuvres in the shark world, the spinner shark not only fully leaves the water, but, holding true to its name, also spins along its rostral-caudal axis. This spinning breach is a consequence of a unique feeding strategy. Swimming at high-speed and vertically through groups of fish with its mouth open, it also spins on its axis, snapping up fish whole as it goes. Performed with such force, the spinner shark usually erupts at the surface of the water continuing the deadly spinning motion.
FAILED AUDITIONS: NURSE SHARK (Ginglymostoma cirratum) Leading a mainly benthic lifestyle, feeding and living very close to the sea floor, the nurse shark very rarely needs to swim at great speeds to obtain food. With no real need for fast, vertical, burst swimming and a lack morphological traits to allow such swimming, it is no surprise the nurse shark failed to breach the water.
BULL SHARK (Carcharhinus leucas) Known for their aggressive feeding habits, bull sharks often breach the surface when snatching the smaller catch from recreational fishermen. This guy was not fully airborne so this will unfortunately not make it into the film. Nice job at inciting a screaming woman though. With lines such as “It’s a big ass shark”, she will undoubtedly make it into the film! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcuYjDR2tSg PYJAMA CATSHARK (Poroderma africanum) Catsharks are one of the most speciose groups of shark on the planet, with some estimated 160 species from 17 genera, the majority of which live just above or close to the seafloor. Typically smaller than most other sharks, in many ecosystems they are mesopredators and are often preyed upon by larger apex predators. This pyjama catshark tried to take full advantage of a predatory interaction with a cape fur seal. Not surviving the incident severely hindered its opportunity of making it into the film.
MOBULA RAY (Mobula mobular) Despite “reading” the casting call, this final individual did not quite fit with what the directors were looking for. Maybe wait for Raynado to hit the big screen buddy!
Sharknado 2: The Second One airs on Thursday the 31st of July on the Syfy channel. Be sure to tune in a check to see which sharks made the movie. Please note, I am in no way affiliated with or working for the people behind Sharknado 2. This was just a fun/education article illustrating the breaching behaviours of some shark species. Please do not be scared by these very real aerial sharks, there have been no documented cases of sharks attacking people whilst in the air. Christopher Bird Follow me: @SharkDevocean
(all photos are credited to original photographers and links to source are provided upon clicking of photo)