Ever since a certain movie hit our screens in 1975, the world has been obsessed with sharks.
The relationship wasn’t always a smooth one: sharks weren’t shy of giving humans a nibble or two, while humans in return slaughtered sharks at a Jaws-dropping rate and drove several species to near-extinction. You know, as humans do.
Thankfully, in recent years, the public perception of sharks seems to be softening. These days, sharks can be Twitter celebrities, children’s entertainers, and even Super Bowl halftime show stars. And thanks to OCEARCH, a nonprofit ocean research group that tracks and monitors marine life in real-time, you can now chat to them on your smartphone.
Self-described “shark obsessed” Twitter user Nat found herself going viral this week when she uploaded some screen grabs from OCEARCH’s shark tracker app. But it wasn’t just the meanderings of the sharks themselves that caught her eye – it was the comments left by fans.
“She’s in the Bermuda Triangle,” one concerned shark-watcher wrote of Lexi, a 2.7-meter-long (8.86-foot”) 120-kilogram (263-pound) adult Tiger shark, “babes go home.”
“Lexi girl where you goin!!” commented another.
But Lexi isn’t the only underwater celebrity, and other tweeters soon chimed in with their own discoveries from the app – like Dr Brent:
“Congrats on the phd queen,” one user wrote to the young fur seal.
“OKAY DR BRENT WITH HER MEDICAL LICENSE” another fan commented.
Despite (or in one case, because of – looking at you, Lauren K) the fearsome reputation of great white sharks, plenty of folks were eager to meet Charlotte, a 153-kilogram (338-pound) juvenile North Carolina native currently “Summering in Cape Cod”.
“Travel safe, eat [fish] and remember to NEVER let any White straight shark let you down,” wrote one well-wisher.
And it seems that after all the damage done by Jaws, people are finally starting to forgive sharks, with multiple people offering to cover for the toothy colossi in the event of an attack.
"If Martha kills me do NOT prosecute her," wrote Linnéa B. "She caught ME slipping."
After an initial wave of popularity, there were some concerns after commenters noticed OCEARCH’s links to SeaWorld, the controversial theme park chain which has faced strong criticism over its treatment of orcas and other marine life.
"I’ve seen a couple people upset that this app is powered by se*world. Ocearch is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which means their form 990 is publicly available," clarified Nat. "Their annual report is also available on their website. It doesn’t look like using the app benefits se*world at all."
"Getting people excited about science and involved in it is incredibly valuable. Downloading a free app that doesn’t run any ads that is funded by se*world is NOT the same as paying $100 to watch animals in bathtubs dance for treats," she added.
Among the other animals tracked by OCEARCH are turtles:
and of course dolphins:
as well as one great white called – wait for it – Singles You Up.
You can track sea life for yourself (or apparently, get a date) by visiting OCEARCH's website, or by using the app. Or failing that, why not just see what other people have discovered.