Shark species names and hurricane sharks: Dear Shark Man, Volume 2

Welcome to volume #2 of Dear Shark Man, an advice column inspired by a ridiculous e-mail I received. You can send your questions to me via twitter (@WhySharksMatter) or e-mail (WhySharksMatter at gmail).

Dear Shark Man,

I know how you feel about sandbar sharks (even though I’m still #teamgoblinshark), but can we agree that Ninja Lanternshark is the best common name for a shark? Also, if you had an opportunity to name a shark, what would you name it? I’d name mine Storm Shark, not because of the meteorological event, but because Storm is Aquaman’s mighty seahorse steed.

La Requin in Lake Buena Vista

Dear La Requin,

Ninja Lanternshark is a pretty sweet common name. My friend Vicky Vasquez was involved in the discovery and description of that species, which also has a cool scientific name (benchleyi, named after Jaws author and eventual shark conservationist Peter Benchley). If you haven’t read the great Hakai magazine story about this species, you should.

As an ecologist and conservation biologist, I am unlikely to get the opportunity to name a shark, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about this. I’d love to see shark species named after influential shark conservation advocates, particularly those who engage in science-based conservation advocacy. If a new species of cownose ray is discovered, I hope that folks will consider naming it after Shark Advocates International President and frequent Southern Fried Science guest blogger Sonja Fordham, for example. And I certainly wouldn’t turn down a species named after me, if any taxonomists are reading this, though there are certainly plenty of more deserving people.

Incidentally, I have a colleague who studies marine mammal parasites. I’ve told her that I will donate to a conservation charity or her choice if a parasite that significantly annoys (but does not kill) dolphins is named after Southern Fried Science.

Dear Shark Man,

My husband is more of a bamboo shark, and I’d like him to move into mako territory. What can I do?

Confounded in Canada

Dear Confounded,

Are you sure? Sure, mako sharks are large, fast, warm-blooded, and exciting, but there’s plenty to love about bamboo sharks. Unlike makos, they’re extremely well-suited to life in captivity, which is nice for home life. Unlike makos, they can breathe without having to constantly swim, and they don’t migrate thousands of miles every year, so you’d, like, get to see them more often. Also, I’m not really sure that you want to be a mako shark right now. 

However, if you really want to try and change your husband, consider switching his diet and hunting regime. If there’s any mako in there, he’ll adapt if you switch his meals from small shellfish to big tuna. Bonus points if you can get the tuna to run around your house at 30-40 miles per hour, that’ll really bring out any mako in him.

Dear Shark Man,

Should I be worried that the most recent hurricane caused this shark to wash up on a road in my area?

Vexed in Virginia


Dear Vexed,

This image does worry me, but not because of any possibility that a shark will injure someone after a storm floods a city.  To the best of my knowledge, no shark has ever actually gone for a swim on flooded city streets after a storm. It worries me because this is actual fake news.

This is a photoshopped image that surfaces after every major hurricane, and it always goes viral on social media despite many past rounds of mythbusting. (Andrew has a theory that there actually is a single “hero shark” who always shows up to help after a hurricane, for what it’s worth).

It’d be really great if people were better at basic science literacy and media literacy. While this particular example is about 2% of why I drink, recent political events have shown that worse things can happen when large numbers of Americans share demonstrably false information on social media.

So this response ends on a lighter note, the real shark photo that this shark is taken from is amazing and worth checking out:

Photo by Tom Peschak

Dear Shark Man,

Why does the TV show Shark Tank have no sharks?

Mad in Minnesota

Dear Mad,

I don’t know, but that show seriously screw up my Google News alerts. It also gets me very excited every time I see a commercial for it, because while the show has no actual sharks, the promo shows schooling hammerheads.

I’d probably be really angry at the show if it wasn’t so damn entertaining. The Canadian version, “Dragon’s Den,” is still pretty watchable, but not nearly as good.

That’s it for Volume #2 of Dear Shark Man! Keep your Dear Shark Man questions coming, and be sharky to each other!

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