Our Distant Cousins: How Much Do We Have in Common with Sharks?

4 April, 2018

We may not have been portrayed as the best of friends in the movies but we’re actually more closely linked to sharks than you may think. Over 450 million years ago, humans and sharks shared a common ancestor – making us distant cousins.

It’s All Relative

It’s not just history linking us together, it’s DNA too. At least one shark species carries several genes that are almost identical to those found in humans. Researchers have identified that 154 genes in humans have comparable matches in elephant sharks, mice, and dogs.

Around 60% of shark species are viviparous, which means that fertilisation occurs internally and mothers give birth to live young – just like humans and other mammals. With this in mind, it is no surprise that sharks and humans share some of the same DNA.

Sharks have all four types of white blood cells that are found in humans. This links the immune systems of sharks very closely to the immune systems of humans. The proteins in a shark’s DNA work in a similar way to the proteins within human DNA – helping the metabolism work in an effective way.

It’s All Personal

You’ve seen the difference between Bruce from Finding Nemo and Lenny from Shark Tale, and guess what? It’s true – sharks do have different personalities, just like people do. Each shark should be seen as an individual, rather than as a species as a whole.

Researchers have found various sharks to behave in different ways when faced with the same situation. This goes to show that although they may all have a fearsome reputation, they actually have different personalities. As the saying goes: “don’t judge a shark by its fin”.

It’s All In Your Head

In terms of body structure, it’s pretty obvious that we don’t hold much in common with sharks – unless you have a few fins you haven’t told us about?

It’s actually our heads and the structure of our skulls that hold similarities with sharks. Both humans and sharks have extremely strong skulls to protect the brain. The build of the skull allows both species to have eye sockets and jaw lines.

Beyond eye sockets, we have even more in common with sharks when it comes to vision. Did you know that sharks have almost the exact same eyes as we do? They have duplex retinas that contain both rod and cone cells. Although sharks use their electrosensory techniques to track prey, their eyesight shouldn’t be underestimated.

It’s All Connected

Whether a species lives on land or breathes underwater, there is always a viable link connecting them to one another. The power of evolution, historical creature connections, and progressive research helps to teach us that even the unlikely relatives of sharks and humans have something in common!

Get a closer look at our distant cousins with a jawsome shark-diving experience and see for yourself just how much we have in common with these underwater giants. What are you waiting for? You’ll have a fintastic time with the whole family!

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