If you’re the type of Shark Week fan who likes to go beyond the great whites, Wednesday’s Ninja Sharks (premiering July 8 at 10 p.m. on Discovery) is for you.
The hour focuses on six sharks that have developed adaptations to help them become effective predators: There’s the hammerhead, whose unique head shape allows for more of the receptors that give all sharks the ability to detect electric currents generated by living things; the mako, whose bullet shape and ultra hydrodynamic skin make it the fastest shark species in the ocean; the thresher shark, which uses its elongated sword-like tail as a 50-mph whip to stun and kill small fish swimming in bait balls for safety in numbers; the bull shark, which can change its body chemistry to swim in either salt or fresh water; and the oceanic whitetip, which has large paddle-like pectoral fins that let it conserve energy and coast through long migrations without food (before feeding in a frenzy when it spots some, like the men lost in the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis).
Our favorite “ninja shark,” however, is the one in the clip above — the salmon shark, a close relative of the great white. It’s developed a superheated core that can keep its body temperature at 60 degrees while it feeds on salmon in Alaskan waters that hover just above freezing. Not much is known about the salmon shark, because few people have gone there to study it. That’s what makes it so exciting — and eerie — when brave souls, including Shark Week favorite Chris Fallows, dive in upon seeing a dorsal fin in this beautiful, unexpected location.
Wednesday’s other new special does involve a great white. In Super Predator (premiering July 8 at 9 p.m.), wildlife filmmaker Dave Riggs continues his search for the animal that killed a 9-foot female white shark he tagged in 2003. The last readings on her tag reveal that the great white rapidly dove to a depth of 1,900 feet in the Bremer Canyon in Australia’s Southern Ocean — and that the temperature reading jumped from the surrounding water’s 46 degrees to 78 degrees in a matter of seconds. Experts studied the data: “They’d all come back with the same conclusion,” Riggs says in the special. “It looks like she was pursued, and she ended up in the belly of something.” But what?
We won’t spoil it for you, but we will say Riggs’s attempts to lure it out are some of Shark Week’s most entertaining sequences, whether it’s him deploying a homemade 15-foot replica of a giant squid or his “Flying Machine.” The latter is a vehicle that allows two professional divers to be mobile but protected while they’re investigating beneath the water’s surface. In the clip below, Riggs tests its buoyancy and propulsion system — as well as, it turns out, how it stands up against an attack from a persistent 15-foot great white.
Shark Week continues through July 12. Discovery and its conservation partner Oceana have teamed for the new initiative Change the Tide, which aims to create a coalition of engaged organizations and individuals to help preserve and restore our oceans.