Sunday, 4 August 2013

NHL Animal Week - San Jose

I began my evening by watching Discovery's well-hyped Shark Week only to be disappointed by their opening program Megalodon. I have to say that this fake documentary tries to have the world believe that the prehistoric massive shark known as Megalodon still exists in the waters of the world today. I'm fairly confident that it is not, and I took to Twitter to call out the errors being made in the "scientific research" being done, but it dawned on me that the NHL should partner with Discovery Communications to bring NHL Animal Week!

Obviously, sticking with the shark theme, the San Jose Sharks could be featured. The Florida Panthers, a subspecies of the mountain lion, could also be featured. The Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins could get in on the week-long look at the animals of the NHL. The Phoenix Coyotes would be featured. The Anaheim Ducks would get a night. And, to cap it all off, the Buffalo Sabres - see what I did there? - could also be included. So I decided to put my naturalist cap on today, and all week, to bring you the programming that Discovery and the NHL would feature on NHL ANIMAL WEEK!

Sunday - San Jose Sharks

There are over 360 species of sharks that belong to eight orders in their taxonomy, but the ones we'll concern ourselves with are from the Order LAMNIFORMES since that's where Carcharodon carcharias, the Great White Shark, is located. The San Jose Sharks' logo would indicate a very aggressive shark as it destroys that hockey stick, and the great white shark would be one of the more aggressive sharks with a powerful bite.

While they never achieve a black color in the wild, the great white shark's name is drawn from its tooth structure. Carcharodon comes from the Greek words "karcharos", which means sharp or jagged, and "odous", which means tooth. Ironically, Megalodon would be an extinct member of the Carcharodon species, tying it nicely into the introduction above. Great white sharks are found mostly in coastal regions where water temperatures hover between 12°C and 25°C, and have surprisingly large numbers in the Dyer Island area near South Africa.

Feeding is rather scary. The teeth are serrated, and the great white shark will shake its prey from side to side after biting it in order to use those serrated teeth to help tear meat from bone. Estimations have put the biting power of the great white shark at approximately 18,000 Newtons. For those of you converting at home, that's more than 4000 psi. That's not even the biggest chomp in the shark world thanks to the dusky shark! Sharks feed on basically anything that moves in or on the water: tuna, rays, other sharks, dolphins, porpoises, whales, seals, sea lions, turtles, otters, and seabirds. Most attacks will occur at night, allowing the shark to take advantage of the poor visibility surrounding their prey. As they say, it's darkest before the dawn!

Great white sharks seem to prefer seals as their favorite food, and this prey allows them to perfect their chosen method of hunting: ambush. Great white sharks like to attack from below in an ambush attack, tossing their prey high into the air in order to stun them before consuming them. California sea lions are usually bitten on the underside while in the water or on the hindquarters, allowing them to bleed out before the shark will feed. Nearly all attacks happen at the surface of the water, reinforcing the ambush portion of the shark's attack. Great white sharks have also been observed swimming at the surface with their heads above water - called spy-hopping in marine research vernacular - in order to aid their attack.

Great white sharks have a poor reputation when it comes to humans due to shark attacks, but this is largely undeserved. Sharks, unfortunately, don't have strong vision and use an electrosensory organ called the Ampullae of Lorenzini to identify electromagnetic fields from animals. Because they see poorly but sense strong electromagnetic fields, surfers are commonly mistaken as seals or turtles when the sharks are lurking deep in the water. The same problem affects sharks that have approached boats as it appears that the shark mistakenly identifies the boat as a whale or large mammal. Because boats generate electrical fields, the shark may mistakenly identify this field as that of a whale. In short, sharks will avoid humans when possible!

As per CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), the great white shark is seen as vulnerable as its numbers have been declining. There are areas of the world, most notably New Zealand and California, where the great white shark is protected by law. The only known predators that the great white shark has are man and orcas.

There's a quick synopsis of the great white shark for today's look at the animal used in the San Jose Sharks logo. Tune in tomorrow when NHL ANIMAL WEEK continues! I'll be featuring the Florida panther of the wisely-named Florida Panthers!

And a couple of tweets for the road on the gong show programming that Discovery Channel had on tonight...
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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