Extinct or Alive: Land of the Lost Sharks

I love these shows. They show so much more of the diversity in shark species than most of the other shows. I admit my favorite shark is the great white but there are more than 440 different sharks to learn about so some variety is nice to see on Shark Week.Wildlife biologist and conservationist Forrest Galante and lost shark expert Dr. Dave Ebert (Dr. Ebert has discovered and named more than 40 shark species) attempt to rediscover three unique sharks lost to science for as long as 100 years. He took us to the Indian Ocean along a 250 mile stretch of African coastline home to 137 different species of sharks. Also the most treacherous, shark infested, waters in the southern hemisphere. Searching for the white tip weasel shark, last seen in 1984, the ornate sleeper ray, last seen in 2007, and the flapnose houndshark, last seen in 1902. The tech and techniques they use are also a breath of fresh air from the usual shows. During their search they encountered oceanic white tip sharks, silver tip sharks, bull sharks, tiger sharks, nurse sharks, ragged tooth sharks, black tip sharks, Austen’s guitar sharks (yes that’s a real shark), sting rays, spotted eagle rays, and had some information to offer on each of those species.By the end they had found all three of the lost sharks they were searching for and the level of excitement they displayed was infectious. They hypothesize that due to the currents, visibility, treacherous conditions of this area a natural barrier to humans and exploration has been created. That this lost habitat probably has many more species believed to be extinct and not yet identified.

Will Smith: Off the Deep End

This is a first for Shark Week. The psychological aspect of sharks is not something that has ever been deeply discussed on Shark Week before. I experience panic attacks so I respect the extreme bravery Mr. Smith displayed confronting his fear head on.Will Smith learned to swim at 40 years old because he was afraid of the water his whole life. This show followed Mr. Smith through his first few scuba dives and cut away to him discussing what he went through to do this. How his fear of the unknown triggered his fight or flight instinct and his fear stole his ability to enjoy life. Working through his fear he discovered how to conquer his own mind.Sharks are dangerous animals so a healthy level of respect for them is only smart. Smith said “Danger is real but fear is a choice.” He got into the water and faced what he had dreaded all his life and loved it. He wanted to take some lemon sharks home for his pool. Something Smith said is similar to what I have always believed “I am a firm believer that fear causes the greatest atrocities and evils that have ever been committed on this planet. Fear is a poison and I’m going to cleanse mine.” Fear of sharks because of Jaws led to a rapid decline in sharks during the 70’s and 80’s and they are still trying to catch up from it.

Great White Serial Killer Extinction

Wow what a name! Great white sharks have been killing California sea otters off the coast of California for over a decade now. But they aren’t feeding on them. Sea otters are members of the skunk family, so they probably don’t taste good. Like humans, sea otters are small and squishy so an investigative bite from a great white shark is devastating and fatal. The sharks see this fluffy thing floating at the surface and check it out by biting it then spitting it out because ew. Sea otters are probably the cutest thing ever so I was not happy with my favorite sharks during this episode but we can bring it all back to be blamed on humans.Shark attack expert Ralph Collier and animal behaviorist Brandon McMillan investigate why since the year 2000 over 1000 sea otter carcasses have washed up on the California coast. The bodies show they had been killed by a single investigative bite and no tissue loss at all so they were just spit out. Sea otters spend most of their lives floating on their backs making them extremely vulnerable to underwater attacks. In Guadalupe, Mexico they discover that sea otters washed up there a generation ago and eventually completely vanished. Using test dummy otters in the clear waters away from live sea otters they witness devastating single bites to the open water dummy tests. Sea otter dummies wrapped in kelp were not bitten though. Bites are less common where there is lots of kelp. The kelp forests of California have declined by 90% in the last decade.Ready for how the near extinction of the super adorable California sea otter is actually our fault? Humans have caused climate change – climate change has raised the temperature of the ocean – the rising temperature of the ocean has caused an over abundance of purple sea urchins – purple sea urchins eat kelp like there is no tomorrow – the kelp forests have declined by 90% and no longer provide camouflage and shelter – Sea otters are forced to float in open water exposed and vulnerable to attacks. This is all our fault. We suck.

An excellent night of programming. Not much COVID talk and new things to discuss. And we have reaffirmed that humans are to blame for nearly everything once again. You may have noticed I am not mentioning the Josh Gates Tonight episodes; it’s a talk show there really isn’t anything to learn or review. It’s amusing so give it a try if you like.

Sylvia Papineau is an Arcade resident and self-proclaimed Shark Week ‘finatic.’ Watch All WNY all week for her take on Shark Week 2020 specials. And share our Shark Week features on social media with the tag #AllWNYSharkWeek for a chance to win an All WNY Shark Week mask.




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