Few creatures inspire such fascination and fear as sharks. However, they are far from the mindless killing machines that they are commonly portrayed to be.
Worldwide, biologists have identified about 470 species of sharks, a cartilaginous fish in the class of Elasmobranchii. Some live peaceful lives skimming plankton from the water with specialized gill rakers. Others have robust social lives and remember their favored companions year after year. A few turn the phrase “cold-blooded killer” on its head even more thoroughly and actually have warm blood pumping through their veins.
Opening on April 20 at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich is a new exhibition, “Sharks!,” which will pose this question: How much of what is commonly “known” about sharks is fact and how much is fiction?
To answer this question, visitors to this interactive science exhibition will get up close and personal with life-size models of a great white, hammerhead and some of its living and extinct cousins. Visitors will watch live sharks developing within eggs and compare and contrast jaws from nearly 20 different species.
“To look at a shark is to see over 400 million years of evolutionary success,” said paleontologist Kate Dzikiewicz, Bruce Museum science curatorial associate and curator of the exhibition. “That said, most species of sharks are long-lived, they mature late, and they produce relatively few ‘pups,’ which makes them especially vulnerable to over-exploitation and population decline.
“Sharks are also apex predators, which means declining shark populations affect the entire ocean ecosystem,” says Dzikiewicz, who also serves as Manager of the Bruce Museum Seaside Center. “Overfishing, bycatch capture and habitat degradation are all having a profound effect on this keystone, and charismatic, group.”
Sharks! will be on view in the Bruce Museum’s Science Gallery through Sept. 1.
The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students with ID, and free for members and children less than 5 years old. Individual admission is free on Tuesday. For more, call 203-869-0376 or visit brucemuseum.org.