National Geographic gave us a unique look into the little-known habit of “cuddly” sharks sleeping together.
Of course, when one thinks of a shark, the image that often comes to mind is that of a fierce predator. The last thing you’d imagine is a creature with “cuddly sleep habits.” But what if the way sharks rest and sleep is more fascinating than you might believe?
Understanding Sharks Sleeping
Unlike humans, sharks don’t have eyelids, so it’s challenging to determine when they’re asleep or awake by merely observing them. However, that doesn’t mean they’re always on the prowl. Sharks have periods of rest and activity, but their “sleep” is different from what we typically understand.
Most sharks need to keep moving to breathe. Water flows over their gills, providing them with the necessary oxygen. This phenomenon might make it seem like sharks never rest, but that’s not entirely true.
Do Sharks Really Sleep?
The concept of sleep in sharks is intriguing. Some species have been observed to enter a state called “tonic immobility.” This natural state of paralysis, which can last for minutes, isn’t sleep in the traditional sense. Instead, it’s more of a trance-like state where the shark becomes incredibly still and can be handled without reacting. It’s not entirely understood why sharks enter this state, but it’s believed to be a defense mechanism.
While the idea of sharks being “cuddly” is a stretch, some species do exhibit social behaviors that might surprise you. For instance, the Spotted Wobbegong, a type of carpet shark, has been observed resting in groups, often piled atop one another, almost like a group cuddle!
While this behavior is more about conserving energy and space than seeking comfort, it’s an endearing sight that shatters many shark stereotypes.
Adaptable and Ever-Evolving
The world of sharks is vast, with over 400 species, each with its unique habits and idiosyncrasies. Some species have evolved specialized methods to rest while maintaining their oxygen flow. The Spiracle, an organ located just behind the eyes of some sharks, allows them to draw water while being stationary. This adaptation enables species like the Whitetip reef shark to lie on the ocean floor and rest without constantly swimming.
While “cuddly” might be a whimsical way to describe the rest habits of sharks, there’s no doubt that these majestic creatures of the deep have a side to them that’s less understood and more fascinating than their fearsome reputation suggests.