It’s shark week. I don’t know about you, but it seems a little — sensationalized?

Regardless of the hype, sharks fascinate kids. They have all sorts of questions. So, in honor of Shark Week and the first birthday of the National Aquarium’s Black Tip Reef, we took some pint-sized reader questions directly to the Alan Henningsen, shark expert at the National Aquarium, to find out the (cool) truth.



Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

How many teeth does a shark have? (submitted by Preslee)

Number of teeth depends upon the type of shark. There are more than 500 species of sharks and the number of rows vary, as do the number of teeth across each row. As an example, blacktip reef sharks have 44 to 55 teeth in the functional row (23-28 in upper jaw, and 21-27 in lower jaw) but in several rows. Sandbar sharks have 52 to 64 teeth in the functional row. A sand tiger shark has 68 to 100 teeth in the functional row, 36 to 54 in upper jaw, and 32-46 in lower jaw. The number of rows of teeth vary, and they are constantly replaced.

Do sharks sleep at night? (submitted by Lila)

Many species of sharks are nocturnal, meaning they are more active at night. When they do take a break, however, it is not quite “sleep” like we as humans know it. Experts have found that they do have brain activity patterns that are decreased at certain times.

Do sharks have spines? (submitted by Finley)

Typically, sharks don’t have spines like the venomous spines of stingrays. There are, however, some sharks with dorsal fin spines, such as horn sharks and spiny dogfish.

Why do sharks eat seals? (submitted by Ellie)

Sharks are predators. Their diets can range from small fish to large animals like seals or sea lions. Each shark species develops different eating patterns. Sharks can be opportunistic and prey upon the most abundant prey in the ecosystem where they live, while some are more specialized. Their diets can change from when they are young to very larger—this includes those that eat marine mammals such as seals.

What kinds of sharks can you find by us? (submitted by Evan)

In Delaware, Maryland and Virginia waters, from the Chesapeake Bay, Delaware Bay and ocean, you can find a variety of sharks, including sandbar, sand tiger, smooth dogfish, white, tiger, mako-way offshore, dusky, blue, spiny dogfish and others.

(cool) tip: On Thursday this week, the National Aquarium will be doing live chats on SharkCam and will be taking questions from those tweeting/posting under the hashtag #SharkCam –so your kiddo can ask their question, too! You can view the SharkCam live at between 7 AM and 10:40 PM, daily. Or, you could of course, take your kids to the aquarium to see their amazing sharks and other aquatic life in “reef” life. (Like the pun?)