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Sharks take the stage this month at science academy

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They are the fearsome predators of the deep.

Just say the word shark and most people shudder while they conjure up images of flashing jaws and razor sharp teeth devouring a victim alive.

But while we fear sharks, we are also fascinated by them; their sleek design, their speed and the powerful presence they emit as they glide silently through the water.

Shark fans ( and there are plenty) can get their fill of knowledge about these magnificent creatures during “Sharktober”, a series of events being held this month at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

The program includes talks by scientists, specimens from the academy’s collections, special shark feeding times for members only and even decorating shark cookies. Some of the events are a part of the academy’s Member Appreciation Month throughout October.

Before we continue, here’s a fact about the most famous of all sharks, the great white.

Great whites feed solely on fish until they are 10 to 12 feet long.

They then get bigger and start dining on marine mammals including their favorite prey, the elephant seal.

Shark species are among the oldest fish in the seas, and you can learn about how they existed during the age of the dinosaurs in “Sharks to Dinosaurs: A Walk through Time” held daily at noon by the pendulum in the east pavilion.

Shark experts will share their knowledge in a series of chats in the Science in Action area in the east pavilion at 12:30 p.m. on three separate dates. Space is limited so make sure to get there on time.

The presentations include:

· Oct 13. Dr. Dave Egbert, Moss Landing Marine lab. Egbert will discuss the eight new shark species he and his team discovered while on a recent expedition to the southern Indian Ocean.

· Oct. 24. Dr. John McCosker, former director of the Steinhart Aquarium and chairman of the academy’s Department of Marine Biology will speak about the natural history of Great White Sharks and their encounters with humans. McCosker is a renowned expert on great whites.

· Oct. 27. David McGuire, founder of Sea Stewards, will explore how his work as a marine biologist, ocean advocate and filmmaker enables him to study local shark populations and conserve the species.

A special shark command center will be open daily at the naturalist center where kids and their parents can learn about sharks through viewing specimens of shark jaws and teeth and seeing photos of “Sandy” the first great white shark to survive in captivity.

If you have not joined the academy or need to renew your membership, this is a good month to do it.

As part of Member Appreciation Month, those who join will get four free admission tickets and can take part in member’s only shark activities including shark feedings at the lagoon, docent tours of Ichthyology collections and shark cookie decorating.

For more information, visit http://www.calacademy.org/join/membership/.

After all, there’s nothing to fear.

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