Alien Sharks: First Contact

Alien sharks are bizarre species rarely seen by the human eye that lurk far beneath the waves in deep waters. In this episode researchers pursue the elusive frilled shark, the sleeper shark, and the cookie cutter shark.

Suruga Bay, Japan scientists look for the frilled shark in the only known place on earth where they have been known to rise near the surface. Thought to be a weak swimmer, scientists believe the key to its survival over 100,000,000 years is an efficient and deadly mouth. Frilled sharks can open their jaws extra wide using row after row of inward facing teeth to latch onto unsuspecting prey like velcro. The team was unable to find a live frilled shark but a fisherman gave them a dead one.

Prince William Sound, Alaska looking for the Pacific sleeper shark. In warm climates sleeper sharks live two miles below the surface but in the frigid north they can live much closer to the surface year round. The sleeper sharks jaws have evolved with upper teeth designed to hold onto prey while their lower teeth work like a band saw, able to rip through large chunks of flesh with speed and efficiency. No one knew if they were hunters or scavengers before now. Researchers put the first camera tag on a sleeper shark to follow it for 24 hours. Copepods are parasites common on sharks but sleeper sharks get them on their eyes, blinding them. Camera footage revealed the sleeper shark to be a scavenger.

Kailua-Kona, Hawaii searching for the evasive cookie cutter shark. Cookie cutters are the piranha of the shark world. They only grow up to two feet long but they make up for their lack of size with the largest tooth to body ratio of any shark. The cookie cutter sharks distinctive bite has been seen and all manner of sea life all over the planet but no one has ever seen one biting its prey before. They are stealthy ambush predators and the attack is over very quickly. A baited camera was used to lure in the cookie cutter and though their bait bore the signature gaping wound, the attack evaded the camera.

These episodes are always so interesting. Sharks have such diversity but only a few are really focused on, and the weirdos don’t get the attention they deserve. While searching for their three specific targets the teams came across kitefin sharks, Gulper sharks, bird beak sharks, leaf scale gulper sharks, roughskin dogfish, blunt nose six gill sharks ( the oldest known surviving species of shark) A rough longnose dogfish that gave birth to 20 pups in their observation tank. Previously this species of shark was believed to pup up to ten babies at a time. ( another first for science) and a salmon shark using a log as a tool to scratch the copepods off of its back. 

Lair of the Great White

Similar to Great White Double Trouble earlier this week but focusing exclusively on the lethal west coast of Australia. A team of experts attempt to find out why a population of great white sharks is so much more aggressive than others. There have been more fatal great white attacks in Western Australia than anywhere in the world. Local abalone divers describe these sharks as different, highly inquisitive, very persistent, and that they don’t go away.Dr. Craig O’Connell and diver Marc Payne travel to Salisbury Island. This island is so remote it has never been fully mapped. Dr. O’Connell believes this is where very aggressive and bold young male great white sharks learn to hunt. And the sharks in this area hunt differently from anywhere else in the world; hiding in shadows and using the network of caves in the area. Great White sharks are masters of adapting their hunting techniques to their environment. Breaching in South Africa, deep sea predation in Mexico. Is this new style of hunting to blame for so many human fatalities?

During cage dives the sharks appear out of nowhere and act extremely aggressively toward the divers then disappear just as quickly. During a night dive the sharks nearly caused the cage with the divers inside to be untethered from the boat. While mapping the sea floor a newborn great white shark was filmed in full hunting mode. (this could be where they give birth)

Matching stealth for stealth and using ghillie suits with dive suits that mask electrical fields and rebreathers, the researchers hide from the great whites to observe this new predatory behavior. Using a stingray decoy filming the mysterious sharks of Salisbury Island for the first time. These adaptive sharks use the environment to their advantage. Hiding in the darkness of the pinnacles, craggy sea floor, and overhangs to close in on their prey before striking.

The intelligence of these sharks is astounding. They find a way to survive anywhere there is food and find the most efficient way to get that food. With fish populations declining due to overfishing everywhere. The Australian sea lion population rapidly declining, and more and more humans entering the water than ever, more human/shark interactions can only be expected. 

Tiger Shark King

A deep-sea camera tag captures footage of a 14 foot tiger shark suffering an assault by a large, unseen beast. Dr. Austin Gallagher wants to find out if it could be an unknown species of mega shark or even a cannibalistic tiger shark.In the deepest waters of the Caribbean known as “The Tongue of the Ocean” a deep sea labyrinth composed of hundreds of twisting canyons and ravines, hides a mysterious ecosystem even the world’s top marine biologists know little about. 150 miles long, 20 miles wide and reaching depths over 6000 feet. Dr. Gallagher and his team use deep-sea drop cams and submarines to find out what is lurking around 1000 feet down where the assault occurred.

This episode was very nearly a complete waste of time. They spent 45 minutes setting up to get into the subs just to tell us that it was probably mating aggression or territoriality that shoved the 14 foot tiger shark into the canyon wall. From the description I thought the tiger shark had been killed but it wasn’t. If they hadn’t had information I didn’t know about this trench I would have thrown my notebook at the TV. This was almost as pointless as the real Tiger King was and we don’t even have Carole Baskin to blame for it.

I Was Prey 2

Two survivors recount their shark attack experiences. One was spearfishing in Australia when their fun turned into a bull shark nightmare. The other was attacked by a great white shark while paddle boarding on Ascencion Island.Survivor shows are hard to do a review on. What can you really say? I’m sorry you were attacked. I’m glad you survived. Survivors/victims deserve their episodes too but it is what it is. Humans are visitors in the oceans. Sharks live there. Any sport/leisure activity in the ocean is a risk. Not just from sharks but from anything in an environment we are not native to. 

Tonight was a mixed bag. We started out with two excellent shows, new data, new research and lots of information. Then it started to putter out. Josh Gates Tonight will not be on anymore so we get four full hours of sharks. Saturday is the last night of “actual” Shark Week and I hope they end it on a high note. I have enjoyed most of what they have thrown at us this year. They can’t all be gems.

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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