They say the size of a fish changes depending on its environment. In other words, if you place a small goldfish in a small bowl, it will stay almost the same size. But if you put the same fish in a large pond, over time, that fish will become enormous! Do you think that living in the ocean, with all that water, has allowed some of the sharks, the rays, and the whales to grow to their gigantic size? If you could put a baby shark in a small container, would it never get any bigger?
Basking sharks, the second-biggest fish in the ocean, are as big as a house, with a caudal fin or tail large enough to swat a boat. They got their name because they apparently enjoy basking in the sun. They seem to disappear at certain times of the year. Because some of them have been found without their gill-rakers, scientists think that when they lose these food strainers and can't get any food, they hibernate like a bear until they grow new ones. Can you think of other animals that sleep through the winter?
Was It a Monster?
Several hundred years ago, when a beachcomber stumbled across the remains of a basking shark, he probably thought that he had found a sea serpent. He was sure that this proved that monsters really did exist as they were described in the fairy tales, and he went to tell other people what he had found. When he tried to describe it to his neighbors, they would have laughed and questioned him about how long that creature really was.
Words to Know
Hibernation is a state of being idle or in a deep sleep for a long period of time. It is believed that some sharks, as well as other animals, eat large amounts of food before they hibernate. This food storage helps to sustain them until they become active again.
Can you imagine how the dorsal fins of this mighty shark could look like a sea serpent, especially if a group of basking sharks had been swimming in the ocean? Was this the first fish story?
Try This: How Big?
Are you growing as fast as a shark? You can make your own growth chart by gluing several pieces of paper together in a line and marking it like a ruler. Then tape it inside your closet door. Every few months, have someone help you draw a line on the chart to show how much you've grown.
For years, many fishermen have enjoyed telling tall tales about the huge fish that they supposedly caught, yet somehow this huge fish always gets away. You and your friends could write your own fish stories. Make them as far-fetched as possible: "The fish was so long, it could tie itself in knots," for example. If you look on the Internet and search on the names of different sharks, you could get some good ideas for your stories when you see how strange some of the real-life ocean dwellers really are!
What Do You Believe?
Have you ever heard of Atlantis? Some people believe there are roads leading from the coast of America to this fabled city under the ocean. Others believe that these "roads" are natural stones made from beach rock. Do you believe that the Loch Ness monster is swimming around in a lake in Scotland? Every place in the world seems to have a fish story. The fishermen of the North carved dogfish and other ocean dwellers into their totem poles to bring them good luck, while other fishermen thought they would have bad luck if a thresher shark swam in front of their boat.