Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Shark Ballet

Continuing a week of "I'm too busy to post about stuff myself, so here are some interesting animals to look at instead."...

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water around South Africa...

Great White Sharks -- Planet Earth

There are many, many documentaries on sharks. Discovery has a whole week of them, for cryin' out loud. People love the bloody, violent footage of sharks mangling their prey, attacking cages, and generally being eating machines.

But -- this one is a real standout among all the millions of hours of shark footage out there. The high-speed camera allows the producers to slow down the action so we can see a 20 foot great white fully out of the water, gracefully suspended in the air. It's haunting, and beautiful. Instead of showing the blood and gore that we typically associate with feeding sharks, we see the power, the elegance, and the sheer strength behind the teeth.

Damien Hurst wishes he could make it look so good.
Interestingly, recent studies have suggested that great whites are actually somewhat social creatures that have developed ranking hierarchies, communication via body language, and other traits that we typically think of as "advanced." Natural History did a cover story on it a little while back, and it's a great read -- plus, more fantastic photos of sharks leaping out of the water! Some of the behaviors they describe may sound familiar; you've probably seen bison or other large mammals perform very similar ones, and for similar reasons. There's a lot more going on in the deep sea than we thought!

Oh, and they're curious, have distinct personalities, and don't appear to care for the taste of human. So if they come up and nibble on you, it's only because they're not sure what you are. Reassuring, no?

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