Jumping the shark

I recently-ish watched “Jaws” for the first time.

That admission might make you ask yourself, “Self, what took her so long?” Well, you know what, smarty pants? Once you’ve seen every movie released during the past 40 years, you can judge me for missing a few.

One of the reasons I had never watched the blockbuster is because I’m not intrigued by sharks. Sure, I previously devote a column to a hypothetical fight between a shark and a lion, but that had more to do with my love for cats, both big and small, than an interest in fish, big or small.

But after watching “Jaws,” I devoted a minimal amount of time to thinking about sharks, specifically their sleep patterns and eyes. For instance, I had always heard that if a shark stops moving, it dies. So, when the movie ended, I researched the topic and it turns out this is sort of true.

The explanation involves too much science for me, but basically, some sharks depend on water flowing over their gills to keep them alive. If they stop moving, the water stops flowing and they stop breathing. Other shark species, however, breathe through their mouths, which doesn’t sound much better than using the gill method.

My mind immediately made the jump from (some) sharks can’t stop moving to sharks don’t sleep. It turns out this is also sort of true. Indeed, sharks don’t sleep the way humans do. According to my limited Internet research, they don’t enjoy deep sleep. Instead, part of their brains remain active while they “sleep swim.”

As someone who’s plagued by bouts of insomnia, I can empathize with sharks. It’s no wonder they always seem to be in a bad mood and looking for a fight. They’re sleep-deprived. I get cranky if I miss a night’s worth of sleep. If I had to miss a lifetime’s worth, I’d bite a swimmers head off, too.

Of course, sharks must contend with other anatomical issues. In fact, they don’t have eyelids. All that saltwater has to damage their eyes. I bet a few cases of that dry eye medicine Jennifer Aniston hawks on the TV would benefit them greatly.

Anyway, all this makes me feel bad for sharks. Think about it. Everyone’s afraid of them, but they can’t sleep and they can’t close their creepy, dead-looking eyes. I’ll take resting my eyes and brain over instilling fear into mankind any day.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

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