Welcome to ‘Shark Week Sparks Concern Over Cocaine Sharks in Florida’.
Discovery’s Shark Week, a program ‘Cocaine Shark’ featured scientists testing the theory that drug consumption is affecting shark behavior.
Every year, millions of dollars’ worth of illegal drugs are discarded off the coast of Florida, USA. A theory has emerged suggesting that sharks may be ingesting these drugs, causing them to behave erratically.
Jump to any section or read the entire article to learn more about ‘Cocaine Sharks’.
- Every year, millions of dollars’ worth of illegal drugs are discarded off the coast of Florida, sparking an intriguing theory about erratic behavior in sharks.
- Scientists conducted an experiment, showcased in Discovery’s ‘Cocaine Shark‘ program, to test whether the sharks would be attracted to objects mimicking drug bales.
- Numerous studies show that pharmaceuticals and other chemicals found in waterways can have a significant impact on aquatic life, causing behavioral changes in certain species.
- The larger issue highlighted by the ‘Cocaine Shark’ theory is the wide-ranging effect of pollutants in our water systems on all aquatic life.
The Theory Behind Cocaine Sharks
Just last month, the US Coast Guard uncovered over $186 million worth of illegal narcotics in Miami. While conducting unrelated research in Florida, scientists Dr. Fanara and Hird stumbled upon two packages of illegal drugs that had washed ashore.
This discovery piqued the curiosity of the scientists. They speculated that if these packages of drugs are being carried by ocean currents around Florida, it is quite likely that sharks could be coming into contact with them.
The Experiment as Seen on Shark Week
The scientists placed bales that mimicked the cocaine packages previously found along the coast to determine if the sharks would be attracted to them. To enhance the experiment, they filled the faux cocaine bales with highly concentrated fish powder, intended to act as a stimulant similar to cocaine. Think catnip for sharks.
The scientists observed the sharks for behavioral changes, investigating if they would choose the counterfeit bales over their regular food source.
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Hird did observe some unusual behavior in a hammerhead shark, but it remains unclear whether this behavior was a result of the experiment.
While the sharks displayed greater interest in the fake cocaine bales than the food source provided in the experiment, this could simply be due to the curious nature of these highly intelligent creatures.
Sharks are incredibly curious and will naturally investigate their environment to understand it better. Unlike humans, who have hands to interact with their surroundings, sharks only have their mouths to touch and assess unfamiliar objects floating in the sea.
The Effects of Drugs on Other Animals
Numerous studies have been conducted on the effects of drugs found in waterways, which have been shown to impact aquatic life. One such study identified 81 different drugs in the waterways of a state in Washington. Our wastewater treatment systems are generally not advanced enough to filter out and process these drugs effectively.
Only one other study has been conducted specifically on the effects of cocaine on marine life. Scientists explored the impact of cocaine on zebrafish and discovered that these fish can absorb 1000 times more cocaine into their bodies than what would typically be lethal for a human, and still exhibit no abnormal effects.
Another study revealed that methamphetamine causes addiction and behavioral changes in brown trout.
The Bigger Picture
While ‘Cocaine Shark’ makes for a catchy headline and intriguing theory, it illuminates a much larger and more significant issue. All the pharmaceuticals we consume ultimately find their way into our natural bodies of water.
From prescription medications to household chemicals, sunscreens, and fertilizers, these substances are all introduced into our waterways, where they have the potential to alter the physiology and behavior of aquatic life.
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The Bottom Line of ‘Cocaine Shark’
If illegal drugs are a recurring pollutant along the coast of Florida, it’s reasonable to assume that sharks and other marine organisms are coming into contact with them and consuming them. Which could be causing behavioral changes.
The intriguing theory of ‘Cocaine Sharks’ paves the way for new riveting scientific exploration, setting the stage for new discoveries ahead.
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