With tongue firmly in cheek, the California Academy of Sciences introduced its first post-pandemic presentation “Sharks” as “a jaw-dropping new exhibit.”
Sharks and jaws go together, said the announcement, which described the show as one “exploring the fascinating world of these dynamic ocean predators.”
Created by Australia’s Grande Experiences, “Sharks,” which opened May 28 and runs through Jan. 23, invites visitors to explore an innovative “out of water” shark experience.
The exhibition features more than a dozen full-scale shark models — from a hammerhead to a bull shark — and a life-size replica of the massive jaws of a Megalodon, an ancient ancestor of the great white shark.
“Sharks” also includes fossils dating back as far as 370 million years and real shark jaws and teeth. Detailed examinations of shark anatomy, biology, hunting strategies and sensory systems, and interactive, educational displays and entertaining hands-on experiences invite visitors to explore. There is also an immersive floor-to-ceiling video.
Luiz Rocha, the Academy’s curator of ichthyology, points to his own “indescribable experience as a scientific diver, encountering sharks while descending to the ocean’s depths.” He calls the role that sharks play in ocean ecosystems a key to understanding “how to protect coral reefs and sustain healthy oceans, the complex relationships between predators and prey.”
One of the world’s outstanding shark experts, Academy senior scientist John E. McCosker, said, “All people, especially children, should enjoy the proximity to these wonderful animals whose size and nature are so varied. There are more than 600 species of sharks and only five of those have people as part of their diet, even then mostly by mistaking humans for sea lions.”
McCosker, emeritus chair of aquatic biology and former director of Steinhart Aquarium, has lived by the water all his life, in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. He was one of the first scientists to study sharks, first from a protective cage, and then mostly without one. He has published 35 papers on the subject and, with co-author Richard Ellis, the book “The Great White Shark.”
McCosker and Rocha emphasize the new, intensely “pro shark” exhibit, which calls for the protection of all creatures from the superorder Selachimorpha, is imported from Australia, with Academy material added.
Scientists trace sharks’ evolution 450 million years and say today’s vulnerable populations are greatly threatened. The exhibition details current conservation efforts that indicate how a new level of respect is developing for the ocean’s oldest and most effective predator.
In court documents concerning the slaughter of sharks by finning (for soup and traditional Asian medicine), McCoskey quoted a study estimating a decrease of 90% or more in shark population from historical levels. An estimated 100 million sharks annually are being killed by slicing off their fins and discarding the rest of the animal, still alive, back into the water.
IF YOU GO
California Academy of Sciences
Where: 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park, S.F.
When: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday–Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays;
Tickets: Advance general admission tickets with timed entry start at
$30.25 for adults; prices vary by date and time selected as well as date
Contact: (415) 379-8000, www.calacademy.org
Note: The Academy is following local and state COVID-related health protocols.