Ever thought what it would be like to hug a shark or swim on its back like a dolphin does? No? Well not me… So what does a shark’s “skin” feel like?
The shark’s sense of touch consists of two forms: the actual contact and the distant touch. These are based in the lateral line.
You know how you always see a shark bump an object with their nose? Well, this how they “touch” and it is called nosing an object.
The second form of the touching sense is the distant touch. Here the shark uses electroreception to sense where danger lurks and prey hides. It uses the Ampullae of Lorenzini, in the electromagnetic field, having the highest sensitivity to even detect vibrations underneath sand.
Okay, so let’s get scientific: the structure of the vibrations manoeuvre through canals: the infraorbital canals, supraorbital canals, supratemporal canals and secondary canals. The water penetrates through tiny pores outside of the skin where the changes in waves pass over hairs in the canals which sends a vibration signal to the brain.
The water enters through the back of the head to the tail via the infraorbital canal, the ventrial located behind the eye and along the snout, through the supraorbital canal, above the eye towards the snout and through the supratemporal canal, leading back over the top of the head through to the tail. It is speculated that there may be secondary canals around the head and jaws.
Now, the shark’s skin… ooh… firstly we do not advocate touching sharks, EVER! Because you may lose a limb or worse…
A shark’s skin is abrasive and is often used as a sandpaper called shagreen in some areas. The skin consists of dermal denticles or placoid scales, like little teeth that is a hard curved tooth-like structure used as an armour to injure prey. This pushes the water down, causing less drag from the water, making the shark more efficient.
By Kylie Samuels