Find out why sharks should be revered, not feared, at the Science Museum of Virginia’s “Planet Shark: Predator or Prey” exhibit | Brand Ave. studios
What comes to mind when you think of sharks? If you picture a menacing creature terrorizing the ocean accompanied by an epic theme song, you’re not alone. But sadly, most of what has been portrayed in popular culture is more myth than fact. Turns out, sharks are way more interesting and diverse than their stereotypical Hollywood portrayal. A new traveling exhibit, “Planet Shark: Predator or Prey,” now open at the Science Museum of Virginia, gives visitors an unprecedented insight into the mysterious world of sharks and will leave them with a new appreciation for this often misunderstood creature.
Sharks are one of the oldest and most iconic animals on the planet. The earliest fossil records show that sharks were swimming in our oceans and lakes as early as 450 million years ago, making them older than dinosaurs! Whether you’re a die-hard shark fan or just looking to learn something new, this immersive multimedia exhibit entertains and educates visitors of all ages. Come and retrace millions of years of evolution and gain a new level of respect for sharks of all shapes and sizes.
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Under the sea: a whole new aquatic world
When you enter “Planet Shark: Predator or Prey”, you are instantly enveloped in the world of sharks. This exhibit features shark models molded from real animals; a superb collection of real teeth and jaws; extremely rare fossils, some of which are up to 370 million years old; gripping tales of human/shark encounters; and detailed examinations of the shark’s anatomy, biology, hunting strategies, and amazing sensory systems.
“There are so many exciting and interesting shark species in the ocean, but most people only know about the great white shark since it became popular in movies,” says education director Timshel Purdum. by Virginia C. Ellett at the Science Museum of Virginia. “The fascinating thing about sharks is that they can come in all shapes and sizes, from palm-sized sharks to school bus-sized sharks that live off plankton.” , explains Purdum.
There’s an endless amount of fun shark facts to discover at this exhibit. After all, how many other animals can replace their teeth over and over again? Or do you have smooth skin in one direction and rough in the other to reduce drag? Or have sensory organs capable of detecting not only electric field changes caused by muscular contraction of prey, but also the electromagnetic field of the Earth?
Beyond the impressive collection of artifacts and wealth of knowledge in this exhibit, a stunning multimedia experience puts guests at the center of it all. Viewers are immersed in a variety of breathtaking scenes, from the darkest depths to the sandy shallows in a fully immersive SENSORY4™ media gallery that showcases 45 minutes of some of the most stunning shark footage ever filmed. “It feels like being in the ocean with the sharks!” said Purdum. This out-of-water experience features an array of high-definition projectors combined with cinema-quality audio narration to display life-size images so real guests feel like they can reach straight up to the screen to touch the sharks.
Misunderstood: the human-shark relationship
Shark attacks grab the headlines, and blockbuster movies often depict sharks as massive, menacing predators. But these gripping stories don’t show the true relationship between humans and sharks. Despite their reputation, sharks are not villains but an essential part of our marine ecosystem and are in fact more likely to be the prey than the hunter.
In fact, due to overfishing and unregulated fishing practices around the world, humans have played a significant role in harming sharks, driving some species to near extinction. Education and public awareness of the beauty of sharks and their role in our world can help replace fear with respect, and “Planet Shark: Predator or Prey” is a vital first step.
“The biggest threat from sharks comes from us. We are not threatened by sharks, but sharks are threatened by humans,” Purdum said. “You are much more likely to be struck by lightning or have a car accident than to be attacked by a shark.”
To learn more about the “Planet Shark: Predator or Prey” exhibit and how to purchase tickets, please visit smv.org.
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