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What it’s like to be a shark

Sharks and their cousins can detect electrical signals. Humans are just about catching up

By Cal Flyn   June 2021

The sensory capabilities of sharks, and other “elasmobranch” species like rays and skates, are truly remarkable. Illustration: Kate Hazell

There is something in the water. You, a shark, can smell it—at concentrations as low as one part per billion. In a swimming pool-worth of water, you can sniff out a single droplet of blood, or indeed fish oil, pheromones and all sorts of other things.

The sensory capabilities of sharks, and other “elasmobranch” species like rays and skates, are truly remarkable. Two-thirds of their brains are dedicated to those finely tuned olfactory skills, which make them the bloodhounds of the sea. But perhaps the most intriguing quality sharks have is their extra sense, electroreception.

They and…

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