1. General and Physical Characteristics

Sharks are fish with a full cartilaginous skeleton and a sleek, streamlined body. The earliest known sharks date from more than 420 million years ago.  They are one of the most diverse animal genera on the planet with 440 different species. They have an extraordinary sense of smell and can sense visually undetectable amounts of animal blood dispersed into the water from considerable distances, making them great prey hunters.

Physical Characteristics

  • Composed of cartilage, soft bones that are in the human nose, instead of bone
  • Typically have bodies which are rounded and tapered at both ends which helps reduce drag and requires a minimum amount of energy to swim
  • Wobbegong sharks and angel sharks have a flatter appearance
  • Some have camouflaging properties to blend in with the ocean water or ocean bottom when looked from above
  • Have rigid fins
  • Eyes are lateral; in general, deep-water sharks have bigger eyes than shallow-water sharks
  • Have ventral external nostrils
  • Have numerous rows of teeth attached at their bases by connective tissue. Several rows of replacement teeth continually develop behind the outer row(s) of functional teeth
  • Sharks and have placoid scales, which have the same structure as a tooth
  • Have 5 to 7 pairs of lateral gill slits
  • Most stingrays, have or more venomous spines which are an adaptation for defending the animal against predators

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References

Shark . (n.d.). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved November 20, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shark

Sharks. (n.d.). Live Science. Retrieved November 20, 2011, from http://www.livescience.com/topics/sharks/

Sharks & rays. (n.d.). SeaWorld/Busch Gardens animals . Retrieved November 20, 2011, from http://www.seaworld.org/animal-info/info-books/sharks-&-rays/index.htm

Murch, Andy (Photographer). Whitespotted bamboo shark [Photograph], Retrieved November 18, 2011 from: http://elasmodiver.com/White%20spotted%20bamboo%20shark.htm

[Untitled photograph of a blue shark]. Retrieved November 18, 2011 from: http://elasmodiver.com/Catalina%20Island%20Blue%20Sharks.htm

[Untitled photograph of a shark fin]. Retrieved November 18, 2011 from: http://elasmodiver.com/Catalina%20Island%20Blue%20Sharks.htm

[Untitled photograph of a tiger shark]. Retrieved November 18, 2011 from: http://dsc.discovery.com/sharks/shark-pictures/tiger-shark-eye.html

[Untitled photograph of a whale shark]. Retrieved November 20, 2011 from: http://travelingcanucks.com/2011/06/whale-sharks-in-the-belize-barrier-reef/

[Untitled photograph of an angel shark]. Retrieved November 18, 2011 from: http://www.davyjonesdiving.com/diving/P78-Angel-sharks-Gran-canaria.shtml

[Untitled photograph of an angel shark]. Retrieved November 18, 2011 from: http://lilycms1.edublogs.org/2010/01/08/angel-shark/

[Untitled photograph of shark teeth]. Retrieved November 18, 2011 from: http://shark98.webs.com/

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