"Cookiecutter" might sound like a little too cutesy of a name for a shark, but it's certainly fitting. The little fish -- they never grow beyond 20 inches (51 cm) in length -- survives by latching onto large prey with sharp, pointy teeth and pulling off a piece of flesh with its strong lower jaw. The diminutive shark's prey nearly always survives, minus a cookie-sized wound.
Cookiecutter sharks live in deep water, so they commonly target tuna, dolphins, and other sharks for their meals. In this way, cookiecutter sharks are regularly sharpening their teeth, and when those teeth break off or fall out, the sharks swallow them. Scientists suspect the teeth offer some important nutrients that help the sharks survive in hostile environments.
If the thought of losing part of your leg to these little guys worries you, never fear: The only person on record to have been bitten by a cookiecutter shark was swimming between Hawaiian islands at night. The sharks also have little to worry about from humans. They are not hunted commercially, and rarely get caught by those fishing for other species.
Something fishy about sharks:
- Sharks have no bones, yet their skeletal cartilage becomes so dense and solid that the shark can fossilize.
- The little black spots that sharks have by their eyes, mouth, and nose are electroreceptor organs that let the shark see temperature shifts and electromagnetic fields.
- Although there are more than 500 species of shark, many are threatened or near extinction because of overfishing.