There are more than 465 known species of sharks living in our oceans today.
Sharks belong to a family of fish that have skeletons made of cartilage, a tissue more flexible and lighter than bone. They breathe through a series of five to seven gill slits located on either side of their bodies. All sharks have multiple rows of teeth, and while they lose teeth on a regular basis, new teeth continue to grow in and replace those they lose.
Shark ‘skin’ is made up of a series of scales that act as an outer skeleton for easy movement and for saving energy in the water. The upper side of a shark is generally dark to blend in with the water from above and their undersides are white or lighter coloured to blend in with the lighter surface of the sea from below. This helps to camouflage them from predators and prey.
It is difficult to estimate population numbers since there are many different species spanning a large geographic area. However, overall shark numbers are on the decline due to the many threats they face in the wild.
Most sharks are especially active in the evening and night when they hunt. Some sharks migrate over great distances to feed and breed. This can take them over entire ocean basins. While some shark species are solitary, others display social behavior at various levels. Hammerhead sharks, for instance, school during mating season around seamounts and islands.
Some shark species, like the great white shark, attack and surprise their prey, usually seals and sea lions, from below. Species that dwell on the ocean floor have developed the ability to bottom-feed. Others attack schooling fish in a feeding frenzy, while large sharks like the whale and basking sharks filter feed by swimming through the ocean with their mouths open wide, filtering large quantities of plankton and krill.