Other than olfactory senses do sharks use some kind of sense that uses electromagnetic waves? Is this similar to an electric eel? I saw a book with the cover statement 'Sharks never get cancer'. IS this possible or just 'quackery' ? Could being constantly 'bathed' in some kind of electromagnetic field cause pre-cancer cells ( that are already unstable) to be 'disrupted'?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Sharks do get cancer.. See also, "Shark cartilage, cancer, and the growing threat of pseudoscience". Contrast, this nonsense. $\endgroup$
    – Susan
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ Oops, the link was wrong: Shark cartilage, cancer, and the growing threat of pseudoscience $\endgroup$
    – Susan
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 22:11
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't say it was 'sense or nonsense'. Notice I asked if this was just quackery? But is cancer in sharks rare? What about electric eels, do they get cancer; is it rare? I read on wikipedia there is a biological paradox related to whales. They obviously have alot more cells than humans yet they don't get cancer as much as a random process would 'cause' if cancer causes are 'random'. Is this true? Why is cancer in the Heart rare? $\endgroup$
    – user128932
    Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 6:11
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you were endorsing that view; just making an observation about the available literature on the topic. $\endgroup$
    – Susan
    Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 6:17
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the response but what about my other questions? $\endgroup$
    – user128932
    Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 6:19

1 Answer 1


Sharks sense their prey with the normal senses, they see, hear and smell them.

They have a remarkable sensitive sense of smelling, which enables them to sense highly diluted traces of prey. They can also use their smelling to determine the direction where a certain smell comes from. This is achieved by the timing in which the senses arrive in different parts of the sharks nose. See references 1 and 2 for more details.

While sharks have eyes which are similar to that of vertebrates, they have an additional reflective tissue called "tapetum lucidum" behind their retina, which reflects the light back and therefore raises the sensitivity of the eye. It seems that a lot of shark species are either colorblind (because they only have rod cells but no cones) or they had only one kind of cone cells which allows them only to see one color. For sharks it is obviously more important to detect objects than to see colors. See references 3 and 4 for more details.

The sense of hearing of sharks is also highly sensitive and is able to detect sounds from far away. See also references 5 and 6 for more details.

The most interesting sense of sharks is their electrosensory organ. This is also called Ampullae of Lorenzini which is a number of sensory cells along the head and which are able to detect the weak electric fields that exist around living animals. This sense only works on a very short distance. See references 7 and 8 for more details.

Finally sharks have the so-called lateral lines (which are present in most fish), which is an organ which detects movements and vibrations in the water around the shark. See the Wikipedia page for more information.

And for the sake of completeness (already quite nicely answered by @Susan in the comments), sharks do get cancer. All cures which are made from shark and claim to be able to treat cancer are pseudoscientific nonsense. This also endangers many shark species as they get radically overfished. See references 9 and 10 for more details.


  1. Smell and Taste
  2. The Function of Bilateral Odor Arrival Time Differences in Olfactory Orientation of Sharks
  3. Microspectrophotometric evidence for cone monochromacy in sharks.
  4. Vision and a Carpet of Light
  5. Hearing and Vibration Detection
  6. Functional anatomy of the auditory system in sharks and rays
  7. The Shark's Electric Sense
  8. Electroreception
  9. Mythbusting 101: Sharks will cure cancer
  10. Shark cartilage, cancer and the growing threat of pseudoscience.
  • $\begingroup$ Excellent information. Is cancer in sharks rare? If an animal has some type of 'function' like the Ampullae of Lorenzini that 'uses' weak electric fields could this de-stabilize pre-cancerous cells that are already unstable to some extent. $\endgroup$
    – user128932
    Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 19:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ As far as I am aware, cells are not destabilized by weak electromagnetic fields. This is different for high energy, but then we are talking about denaturating proteins. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ Are they de-stabilized by microwaves or M.A.S.E.R.s? $\endgroup$
    – user128932
    Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 19:55

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