Someone says, ‘’Shark’’, and we immediately think of Steven Spielberg’s 1975 cult classic movie, JAWS. Sharks are fascinating creatures of the ocean with their infamous reputation, chomping down on innocent surfers and beach-goers.
But you already know all of this. You are here to find out if the title is true and the reason behind it. So how do we get from ‘JAWS’ to ‘Fifty Shades of Grey White Sharks’?
Apparently, this is common behavior in the heat of the mating season. Yup, you read it correct. A female shark has to endure bites from a male, usually on the fins closer to the head. And more often than not, it results in females bearing frightful wounds (or ‘love bites’) and eventual scars on their fins or back.
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I know a shark courtship can seem intense and unnecessary, but don’t judge so quickly. Well, as explained by Shark biologist Dr Neil Hammerschlag from the University of Miami, the sensory receptors (also called nociceptors) responsible for the feeling or sensation of pain present in humans and other mammals are absent in sharks. Moreover, evolution came to aid and helped female sharks develop a thicker coat just to counter this issue. Chances of getting severely injured during mating have been reduced, allowing them to procreate.
Shark skin is already tough due to the presence of placoid scales, also known as dermal denticles. These are microscopic bony projections with an enamel-like covering. And a female’s skin is twice as tough. In fact, some female sharks have skin thrice as thick as their partners. During mating males must bite the female’s back or fins to get into the proper mating position. Though these necessary love bites are less damaging than feeding bites, they can still deal out wounds. By securing itself on to the female’s body, the male positions itself to close enough to channel the sperm where it needs to go.
So, yeah, it seems mothers’ across all species can perform impossibly painful tasks for the sake of their next generation.
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