/ The Atlanta Traveler
Atlanta — By Linda Erbele on February 24, 2010 at 10:14 am
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Planet Shark grabs attention at the Georgia Aquarium

The scene opens on a crowded beach. The music swells as people begin to scream and race out of the water. A blond toddler, sitting in the sand, wails as he sense the panic in the air. The camera turns to the ocean, where ominously awaiting a victim is — a floating toaster.

The caption tells us that more than 600 people were killed last year by faulty toasters. Less than ten were killed by sharks.

That is part of the point of the Georgia Aquarium’s new Planet Shark – Predator or Prey? exhibition. Many people have a strong fear of the animal — fed of course, by movies and the media. Much of it is from a lack of understanding. The exhibit — which does not include live animals — endeavors to give the subject a little balance.

Sharks are fascinating animals when you learn more about them. It is believed that they can detect scents miles away, as weak as one part per million. They have several rows of teeth and one display shows how many teeth just one shark will shed in a lifetime. (A bucketful!) Also, they have two extra sense – electroreception and vibration detection. Other displays include models used in filming, a shark cage (picture yourself that close to all those teeth) several jaw and teeth displays and other educational information about this often misunderstood animal.

While it may still be difficult to summon some concern about sharks being wiped out, think about what has happened in other eco-systems when the natural predator is removed from the food chain. (The rodents multiply!) The exhibit points out that because of the popularity of shark fin soup, some fisherman hack the fins off the live animals. There are other shark products that humans buy, such as cartilage in the hope that it will prevent or cure cancer.

The exhibit includes an 18-foot model of a Great White — the breed that so terrified people in the movie Jaws. What you won’t see in Planet Shark is live sharks. So go through the exhibit first, learn a little about these amazing creatures, then go downstairs and see the fish and mammals (and sharks!) that live at the Georgia Aquarium. Planet Shark opened in October and will be in Atlanta only through May.

Advanced purchase tickets are $31.50 for adults, $23.50 children and $26.25 for seniors, which includes admission to the Georgia Aquarium. Save $2 each (on a group of four) by using the coupon here. Special pricing is available for Annual Pass Members, groups and schools. The Georgia Aquarium is located across from Centennial Olympic Park, next to the World of Coca-Cola. (see map)

(Photos: courtesy Georgia Aquarium.)

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