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Facts: Shark Attack Beach

The beach in New Smyrna, Florida.

The beach in New Smyrna, Florida. (View larger version)

Photograph by Tigress Productions Ltd

  • Spinner Sharks must be the dizziest sharks around… they get their name from the unique manner in which they catch their prey – snapping their jaws, they spin their bodies round and round whilst climbing quickly through a big shoal of fish, and then burst out of the water without slowing down!

  • The Spinner Shark is relatively harmless to humans – although attacks have been recorded, this seems to be because a Shark has confused a human with animal prey, and there have been no known fatalities. However, the same does not apply the other way around… Humans are responsible for the deaths of the greatest number of Spinner Sharks, hunted for its fins, hide and meat, and unfortunately resulting in the species coming under threat.

  • Sharks are vulnerable to fishing pressures because they grow slowly, can take up to 18 years to mature, and can have as little as two pups per brood. Their youngsters are also at risk from predation and starvation in their early years- scientists have found that 61-91% of deaths in a Blacktip Shark population occurred before they were even 15 months old!

  • According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), the most popular time for unprovoked Shark attacks in Florida is between 2 and 3pm. It looks like the Sharks get peckish around the same time swimmers have their post-lunch dip!

  • Did you know that the Puma is known by more common names than any other mammal? For example, cougar, mountain lion & red tiger. It has the largest range of any wild cat, stretching from the South of Canada to the Southern tip of South America, and so it has earned many different titles– it has over 40 names in English alone!

  • You better watch where you're walking when Pumas are about… they are extremely territorial, and will attack anything that strays into their territory. These areas could be quite tricky to avoid however, as one cat's territory can span over 100 miles!

  • Did you know that a Lynx can spot a mouse up to 250 feet away? The name 'Lynx' comes from the Greek word for 'to shine - a reference to the cats' bright mirror-like eyes that shine in the dark, giving it excellent night vision.

  • Did you know that a 30 pound Lynx has bigger feet than a 200 pound Mountain Lion? Lynx have huge feet covered in thick coarse hair that act as snowshoes, making it easier for them to hunt in deep snow!

  • The Cougar is often excluded from the list of big cats, because it can't actually roar… Their voice-box is more like that of smaller cats, making sounds like purr, meow, hiss, whistle, spit, scream and even a low sound known as a 'wah-wah'!

  • Did you know that a Bull Elk's antlers at their strongest are capable of taking the weight of 10 bowling balls on each side without budging? Growing to a length of over 1.2 metres and as fast as an inch every day, the growth of an Elk's antlers is controlled by the testosterone levels in its body – when these levels drop in the spring, their antlers snap off, and they start to grow a new set again.

  • Did you know that if a person had to eat and chew as much as an Elk in the summer, they would have less than ten minutes every hour free to do other things? Elks must build up fat in preparation for the winter and feed 24/7 in the summer! Their top two canine teeth are known as ivories and are usually saved as mementos by hunters - scientists believe these to be remnants of sabre-like tusks that ancestral species used in combat!

  • Elks are well prepared to sense any threat - they have a sharp sense of smell, large mobile ears, and big eyes designed to detect movement on the side of their skull that can see ahead, sideways and even behind them! Elks need to keep a constant watch for predators such as Wolves, Mountain Lions and Grizzly Bears, and gather in herds so that at least one animal is looking up whilst the others eat.

  • A Female Elk, or 'Cow', goes to great lengths to hide its young from predators – after giving birth she eats the placenta and any soil tainted by birth fluids, and then continues to eat the calf's faeces to eliminate signs that a predator might detect. However, the newborn calves are born odourless and with a spotted coat that helps to camouflage them, so they do a pretty good job on their own!

  • Did you know that Lichen is not a plant in its own right, but a partnership of up to three different organisms? Fungus is always the major partner, but these associations can be so complex that lichens have earned the title of 'small ecosystems'!