Sink your teeth into the newest exhibit at the Science Museum of Virginia.
Sharks first appeared on the earth more than 450 million years ago. There are currently about 400 species and they range from a foot long (the cookiecutter shark) to 40 feet (the whale shark)—and that’s not including the megalodon which went extinct but grew up to 59 feet.
Planet Shark: Predator or Prey (May 28-September 5, 2022) is a journey into the world of this underwater predator—one of the most misunderstood animals on Earth. It is a story of evolution, of form and function, and of the significance of the shark in our world. Festooned with models of various sharks and beneath blue lights, the exhibit gives the sense of being underwater. In the SENSORY4™ immersive gallery, 11 large screens display an up-close and almost personal 45-minute film of sharks in their natural habitat. Guests can also learn more about extinct and modern sharks on interactive tablets.
Timshel Purdum, the director of education, is an avid enthusiast, to say the least, and is excited for visitors to soak in what’s on display. “They don’t have hands,” she says, “so their teeth have to do the work for them.” And depending on the available food sources, shark species have different teeth. One of Purdum’s favorites is the cookiecutter shark, which takes circular bites out of its prey–which includes even whales sometimes.
Through facts and interactive learning tools, the exhibit challenges the notion of “being afraid of sharks.” According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), only 47 shark attacks occurred in 2021. You can even track some tagged sharks—including Luna, Sawtooth, and Erroll Finn—using Ocearch (here), which also tags dolphins and turtles. And don’t worry, “Jaws” isn’t coming to a beach near you.