James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad” premieres today and among the colorful cast is the menacing yet endearing King Shark. The DC Comics character first appeared in Superboy Vol 4 #0 in October 1994. However, the character’s origin comes directly from native Hawaiian mythology. Nanaue, or King Shark, is the son of the shark god Kāmohoaliʻi. Kāmohoaliʻi was said to lead lost sailors home in the waters surrounding Maui and Kahoʻolawe. Some legends say that Kāmohoaliʻi even guided the first people to Hawaii. Over his comic history, King Shark has been drawn to have the head of a White shark (Carcharodon carcharias) and, starting in 2011, a Great Hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran). As these two species are not closely related, it makes you wonder where King Shark would fall in the shark family tree!

The King Shark of the comics shares several superpowers with his real-life cousins. For example, super strength and endurance. Many species of sharks, including the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), are known for traveling between continents, even crossing into different oceans during their migrations. Now that’s endurance!

King Shark has the ability to dive to the cold ocean depths. White sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) can dive down to depths of over 1300 m (4265 ft). As discussed in our Arctic sharks blog, Lamniform sharks are warm-blooded. They achieve this differently from mammals (like you) by evolving vascular counter-current heat exchange. This works by using the heat generated from active swimming muscles and the shark’s metabolism to warm their body’s core and major organs. So, they can stay toasty and alive, even in cold arctic temperatures. Maybe King Shark is using this mechanism too???

King Shark has super healing abilities, and while his recovery may be faster than real sharks, many species have demonstrated incredibly fast healing of wounds. Researchers are even studying the genes of sharks to see if this rapid healing factor can be used in the treatment of people.

King Shark’s personality has changed over the years, and the loveable moron portrayed by Sylvester Stallone is arguably the most popular. However, real sharks are highly intelligent animals. Eugenie Clark, a female pioneer in shark sciences, showed in the 1950s that captive lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris) could learn and memorize shapes as fast as most mammals. Her work helped to start dispelling the myths that sharks were mindless monsters.

  • Do you know where King Shark would likely be on the Chondrichthyan family tree?
  • Do you know why King Shark, every other shark character, and emojis are drawn with only 3 gills slits? We don’t! Seriously, are 5 gill slits really that hard to have on a fictional character? They would breathe easier!
  • Have any shark questions?

Let us know!

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