By Mick Swasko, @swasko
1:28 PM CDT, July 12, 2013
If a tornado carrying multiple varieties of sharks actually did find its way to L.A., the sharks wouldn’t be angry. They would be incredibly confused.
“To be up in a tornado, I don’t think they would have the cognitive desire to go after people at that point,” said George Parsons, senior director of fishes at Shedd Aquarium, when asked about the premise of SyFy’s campy “Sharknado” movie, which premiered Thursday.
For the uninitiated, here’s the basic premise: A hurricane hits the West Coast, sucking up sharks of all kinds and plopping them on land in L.A. A conveniently timed tornado then hurls them upward again, where they begin chomping their way through the population of the city.
First thing first, Parsons says: Don't vilify the species, people.
“Sharks definitely don’t deserve their reputation as being man eaters,” Parsons said. “They are really necessary and important animals to oceans and reefs.”
Parsons -- a B-movie buff who has been with the Shedd for 25 years -- said he saw a trailer for the flick and assumed it was a joke. He hasn’t seen the whole thing, but enough of it to set the record straight during a cheeky interview with RedEye on a Friday.
(SPOILERS AHEAD. DON’T READ ON IF YOU PLAN ON CATCHING SYFY’S ENCORE NEXT THURSDAY.)
Take, for example, the movie’s climax, in which main character Fin (Ian Ziering) is swallowed whole by a Great White and then uses a chainsaw to cut his way out.
“It really has to do with [the shark's] bite radius,” Parsons said. “A really big shark, a record-size shark, would probably not have the mouth span to swallow a human whole and get it into their digestive system. It would have to be a shark bigger than we’ve ever seen. That’s a premise I would have to myth bust, definitely.”
So, how long would a shark last out of water?
"I would imagine a shark out of water, with their gills wet, 10 minutes tops,” he said. And that's in normal circumstances. After being flung through a tornado, Parsons imagines, a shark would last a much shorter period of time.
"Their skin is super sensitive to external stimuli,” he said. Because sharks can sense pressure, they probably would have the wherewithal to avoid a tornado in the first place. On top of that, he said, a tornado would confuse the heck out of a shark's bodily senses, what with all the additional debris flying around.
In terms of the species featured in the movie (Hammerheads, Great Whites and Tiger sharks), Parsons said it’s “semi-plausible” you’d see them mixed together in the waters off L.A., though it’s pretty unlikely.
The bottom line? Sharks that just survived flights in two different natural disasters aren’t going to be very dangerous when they land. If he found himself in a hypothetical Sharknado, Parsons wouldn’t panic.
“I’d probably run inside and get my camera and go back outside, see how many I could catch,” he said. “Doing what I do, I would get a pickup truck and try to get them back to the ocean.”
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