Thursday, August 09, 2007

Sometimes it hurts

Yes, I do know not everybody is as fascinated by sharks as I am. That's only logical - after all, we're all interested in different things. But if I write an article about something, I ought gather information about it first. And I fear, some journalists don't.

I was reading more of the magazines after finishing my last post and stumbled upon an article about a primeval shark (with the picture shown at the left of this paragraph). The creature on this picture is a dunkleosteus (hope I wrote it right) and the topic of the article. That's a large and dangerous fish from the Devon (if I'm right), but it's not a shark. Sharks are among the oldest fish still alive today, but given the fact life on earth started in the oceans, that's not much of a surprise. It's had a head start, after all.

The dunkleosteus is a dangerous fish, as I already pointed out, with a lot of bone plates on the front half of its body. Actually, it doesn't have any teeth in the way we would understand it, but bites through its prey with sharp bone plates around its mouth. It's the largest and best known member of a whole group of fishes. Not something you'd like to keep in an aquarium ... unless, of course, you're a super-villain. (But in this case you're a couple of millennia late ... sorry to tell you.)

But, if that's possible without looking among the mammals in the ocean, it's the anti-thesis of a shark. A dunkleosteus is half-covered in bone plates while the only 'bones' a shark has are its teeth and jaws. Sharks and rays (is that the right word? my translator didn't accept "Rochen" and I know that "Teufelsrochen" translates into stingray) don't have bones by default, it's what sets them apart from all the other fishes on earth (octopuses don't count, they're no fishes). Sharks are fast and manoeuvrable, even the largest like the White Shark or the Whale Shark. The dunkleosteus wasn't. But as it was larger than most other fishes around, and well-armoured, too, it didn't have to be.

In fact, the whole article reminded me of a horror movie I saw some years ago. It was about a 'primeval shark', too (and the critter almost looked like the dunkleosteus). But that was just a horror movie - and I love horror movies about sharks, although most of the time they only make me laugh ("Shark Hunter" didn't though, that was one good movie - great meg). Now I wonder whether the journalist saw the same movie...

Anyway, I always thought a journalist should do a quick research before writing an article - and even the most basic information about sharks and other primeval fishes should make everybody see there's definitely a difference between them.

Obviously I was wrong.

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