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Shark facts with BITE

Duuun dun duuun dun. Is there something lurking in the water? You pause, waves licking at your ankles, that ominous tune in your head. Dun dun dun dun dun dun doo dedoo.

What could it be?????

Image by Elianne Dipp

It’s me – author Leisa Stewart-Sharpe!

My first children’s book splashed into the world this week – Blue Planet II. You might remember seeing the show on the telly a few years back. Well I got to work with the people who made the show, the BBC, some people who make books, Puffin, and an incredible illustrator called Emily Dove to take Blue Planet II from TV to print. It was FINtastic. (Sorry – I’m prone to puns).

I’ve thought you might like to hear a bit about my FAVOURITE animal in the book. You probably think I’m going to say otters. They’re otterly adorable. (Oops – there I go again). But no, I’m much more inclined to favour species that are misunderstood. Species that could use a little more love from humankind.

I’d like to tell you all about SHARKS!

Blue Planet II is a shark lover’s dream, it has exactly 17 sharks in it – we even managed to get a few on the cover. Illustrator Emily Dove is so good at drawing them, I think she must have had gills in a past life. You’ll find stories about bluntnose six gill sharks, pyjama sharks, tiger sharks, great white sharks, blue sharks, silky sharks and whale sharks.

Here are 5 reasons I adore them.

1. They’re old-timers. Sharks have evolved over 400 million years – before trees and dinosaurs – to become the fish we know today. Scientists have discovered a Greenland shark they think can live for 400 years, making it the longest living vertebrate on the planet, around long before London’s St Paul’s Cathedral was even built.

2. They don’t need bones! Sharks come in all shapes and sizes – from titanic to teensy. The biggest, a whale shark, is about as long as a bus, whereas the teeny tiny dwarf lantern shark is about the length of a fork! You’d imagine they’ve got an awesome bony skeleton right? Wrong! Sharks have no bones and are instead made out of the same stuff as your earlobe – cartilage. It helps make them flexible and to corner fast. The shortfin mako is the fastest shark, as fast as our speediest human, Usain Bolt!

3. The Tooth Fairy’s worst nightmare! Sharks have rows upon rows of teeth that are continuously growing – some sharks can lose tens of thousands of teeth in their lifetime. Good news for sharks, bad news for the tooth fairy!

4. Fins with flair. A lot of sharks come in shades of grey with cream tummies, making them hard to see from above or below. But some sharks aren’t afraid to add a bit of flair! The cookie cutter shark is bioluminescent (it glows), the tiger shark has stripes, the whale shark has unique polka dotted patterns, and the wobbegong is yellow, green and brown like a 1970s shagpile carpet.

5. Sharks have friends. Just like you, sharks choose who they want to hang out with, and when they migrate, they remember their pals from the previous year.

Aren’t sharks jawsome! (That was the last pun, I promise). But it makes me sad that today many sharks get tangled up in fishing lines, hooked on drum lines or caught to make shark fin soup. I’ve got a huge soft spot for sharks – they’re so terribly misunderstood. Many people are scared of them, but the odds of being eaten by a shark are 1 in 3.7 million. That means you’re actually more likely to get hit by lightning.

I’m a big believer that all plants and animals, not just the well-known or beautiful ones, deserve our love and protection.

What fierce, smelly or funny-looking animal do you love best of all? I’d love to hear all about it!

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