Ninja sharks: mutant sharks from thresher to salmon sharks


When Discovery Channel unveiled its 2021 lineup for Shark Week, one headline stood out among the 33 shark specials: Ninja Sharks 2: Mutants Rising.

Although the title is more like a comic book (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, anyone?) than a serious nature documentary, Ninja Sharks 2 fulfilled its promise to detail four sharks that have mutated and developed “superpowers” that make them unique among the more than 500 shark species classified today.

But what is a ninja shark?

If you browse the Discovery Shark Week schedule and see Ninja Sharks 2, you will definitely ask the question: “What is a ninja shark?”

The show’s title is clearly not scientific. In the documentary, “ninja sharks” are described as species of sharks with unique “superpowers.” In other words, they have evolved and acquired special abilities that make them unique. In particular, the details of the exhibition:

  • Shark with “bionic tail”
  • Another shark with a “bullet body”
  • The “mutant shark” that can hide motionless in old shipwrecks
  • And a shark with a “superheated core” that hunts in cold waters.

Below we take a closer look at each of these “ninja sharks”.

Thresher sharks: whip by the tail

Ninja Sharks 2 begins in the waters of Long Island in New York, where thresher sharks gather for two weeks in the summer before descending again into the depths of the ocean.

What makes thresher sharks so interesting is their bionic tail (the words of the show, not ours!) is the same length as their body. Thresher sharks can use this tail as a sword or even a whip, throwing it at 50 miles per hour and knocking the fish down in unconscious groups.

IN Ninja Sharks 2, Scientists are trying to tag the thresher shark with a camera to determine why they congregate off Long Island for just a couple of weeks in the summer. Conclusion: at this time, the nearby reefs gather large “baits” of millions of fish. Threshers converge in this area, as their tails are extremely effective at hunting these large schools of fish.

Biggest Shark: Thresher
The pelagic thresher shark Alopias pelagicus swims off a coral reef in the Philippines.

Short-tipped Mako Shark: Bullet-Shaped Body

The show also focuses on mako sharks, which also hunt near Long Island. What makes a short-feathered makos “ninja sharks”? First, they the fastest sharks on the planet.

Shorttip makos have a maximum recorded speed of 46 miles per hour. In other words, they can break through water at a speed of 5 to 8 body lengths per second. Combine this speed with the size of the mako shark (up to 12 feet in length) and you can see why these sharks are such effective predators.

Fastest marine animal: Mako shark
A huge mako shark swims underwater near the shore. The mako shark is not only the fastest shark in the water, but also one of the fastest creatures on earth.

Sand tiger shark: a shark that can hunt without moving

Most sharks have to be constantly on the move for a simple reason: the water moving through their gills allows the sharks to breathe. In other words, for species like the great white shark, keep moving or die!

However, the sand tiger shark has an adaptation that allows it to hunt differently from most sharks. Ninja sharks describes the sand tiger’s “superpower” as the ability to swallow air from the surface, which allows sharks to remain buoyant and swim immobile. While other sharks can breathe without swimming (thanks to a technique known as buccal pumping), only the sand tiger shark is known to swallow air from the surface in this way.

The head of a great sand tiger shark in detail on a dark background.
The head of a great sand tiger shark in detail on a dark background.

On the Ninja Sharks 2Scientists have studied sand tiger sharks using this ability to “hover” in shipwrecks off the coast of North Carolina. Ships sunk off the coast of the Carolina during World Wars I and II formed a long strip of reefs clustered around sunken ships known as the Atlantic Cemetery.

The confined spaces of these ships are not ideal hunting grounds for most sharks who find it difficult to navigate shipwrecks. However, since the sand tiger shark can “hover” motionless, they have become the main predators in shipwrecks, ambushing fish. In addition, sand tiger sharks often congregate in large groups. As soon as they gather, they will be surrounded by smaller schools of fish.

When groups of sand tiger sharks hover in the center of these large schools of fish, they are virtually invisible. When larger fish try to catch schools of fish, sand tiger sharks jump out of cover and are rewarded with food.

Salmon shark: a predator in cold waters

The last shark pictured on Ninja Sharks 2 there was a salmon shark. Salmon sharks live in the North Pacific Ocean, stretching from Japan to Alaska. As the name suggests, their favorite prey is salmon and other large fish.

What are their “ninja skills” that got them into the show? Salmon sharks essentially have an “overheated core” that allows their body to remain at 60 degrees, even when the surrounding water is just a couple of degrees above zero. This higher body temperature allows salmon sharks to move faster while hunting.

A rare underwater photo of a salmon shark in open water, an elusive predator of the North Pacific.
A rare underwater photo of a salmon shark in open water, an elusive predator of the North Pacific.

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