Q:

What are shark skeletons made of?

A:

Quick Answer

A shark's skeleton is composed of cartilage and a network of collagen fibers. This differs from most other vertebrates and allows for the especially efficient attachment of muscles, which results in little waste of mechanical energy. The cartilaginous skeleton of the shark is also lightweight compared with bone.

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Full Answer

The lightweight skeleton allows a shark to expend less energy when staying afloat, as all shark species lack a swimmer bladder. Due to a lack of bone and bone marrow, a shark must produce red blood cells in its spleen and its epigonal organ, a collection of specialized tissue around the gonads. A primitive backbone called the notochord is present in young sharks and is eventually replaced with cartilage.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    Why is the great white shark endangered?

    A:

    The great white shark is endangered from years of being hunted by people for its fins and teeth. Great white sharks also get overhunted as trophies in sport fishing, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Another danger is accidental catching by commercial fisheries.

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  • Q:

    How big is a great white shark?

    A:

    According to the Ocean Portal of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the average female great white shark is 15 to 16 feet long while the average male is 11 to 13 feet long. Very large great white sharks have been found at 20 feet long.

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    What eats a shark?

    A:

    Though sharks are considered apex predators, they are often eaten by humans and are sometimes eaten by killer whales. Shark embryos from different fathers will also eat each other in utero, with the largest embryo of the bunch usually winning out.

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    How does a shark protect itself?

    A:

    The 400 living species of sharks defend themselves in a variety of ways that vary from species to species. Large species, such as great whites, basking sharks and whale sharks derive protection from their size; they are too big to represent potential prey for any species except humans. Other species, such as carpet sharks, rely on their flattened morphology and cryptic coloration to avoid the detection of predators.

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