UNESCO: 70% Salty

7 things Shark Tale got wrong about the ocean 

3 Mins read

It’s been 10 years since the release of Shark Tale (and 10 years since we started wondering why everyone suddenly fell in love with a cartoon fish named Lola)… 

Caught up in the colourful star-studded comedy of mafiosi, love triangles, and hot fish, it’s likely you missed some key factual errors in Shark Tale.  

  1. Oscar Wouldn’t Be Scared of Sharks  

Oscar, the protagonist, is a blue streak cleaner wrasse. These fish are designed to clean larger marine species (like sea turtles, whales, or sharks), by eating parasites and dead tissue off their skin. They have a mutualistic relationship with these larger fish, keeping them clean while also feeding themselves. So, although Oscar working at the “car wash” is a perfect detail, the film was wrong about a major plot point – it would be virtually impossible for Oscar to fear sharks, since cleaner wrasses interact with them so often! 

  1. Sharks Never Raise Their Kids 

Don Lino (aka De Niro), the head great white shark, says he’s been “raising” his sons, “protecting them, teaching them…to prepare them for the day they run the reef”. But no shark species does this in real life. When shark pups are born, they’re completely independent and immediately must fend for themselves. Instead of nursing, most parental care is done before the baby is born, via prepping and ensuring suitable conditions for the shark pup to survive on its own. 

  1. Sharks Can Be Flexitarian 

Lenny, the sweet underdog of Shark Tale, is teased for being a vegetarian, because it’s believed that sharks are always out to kill living things. However, there is an entirely omnivorous species of shark called bonnetheads, whose diet is mostly seagrass. (In fact, they’re able to survive on seagrass alone!). According to The Dallas World Aquarium, ‘It is a timid and a harmless shark (only one attack on humans has ever been recorded)’. 

  1. Lola Looks Wrong  

The ocean’s notorious seductress, Lola, voiced by Angelina Jolie, is supposed to be a lionfish, but the only accurate resemblance she bears to a lionfish is her colouration. Marine biologist and shark scientist, Kristian Parton, said “This is probably one of the worst depictions of a lionfish that I’ve ever seen”. Real lionfish have fleshy tentacles, several porcupine-like spines protruding from all angles, and pretty saggy, sombre faces. 

  1. The Mafia Wouldn’t Be Run by Sharks 

In the film, the mafia is headed by great white sharks, and during a meeting, killer whales cower next to them in fear. But in our oceans, killer whales are actually at the top of the marine food chain and even feed on the fatty livers of great whites. 

  1. That Shipwreck Isn’t the Titanic  

The famous shipwreck used by the shark mafia as a hideout is supposed to be RMS Titanic. This would be impossible, since the movie takes place along a tropical reef, but the Titanic wreckage would be thousands of miles away from any exotic location, as it’s located roughly 370 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada in the North Atlantic Ocean. 

  1. Sharks Are Endangered 

The film repeatedly suggests that the sharks’ biggest worry is being overthrown and losing their power and control over the reef, but in reality, sharks have much bigger fish to fry… 

The Shark Champions organisation states, ‘This group of animals is the most endangered of all marine life. Consisting of around 1200 species, more than one third (37%) are threatened with extinction. In the last 50 years, numbers of oceanic sharks and rays have plummeted by 70%’. Many other challenges for sharks include: over-fishing, habitat destruction, pollution, boat strikes and climate change (according to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals). 

Perhaps Shark Tale’s underwater city (humorously meant to mirror Manhattan), is actually a more serious nod to the reality of ocean life; brands such as Burger King and Coca Cola, both advertised on billboards in the film’s reef-city, are examples of real products that have ended up in our oceans. 

We don’t live underwater, so perhaps there’s no need to be an expert, but water does cover over 70% of our earth’s surface, and so there’s certainly no harm in daring to learn more. Watch Shark Tale again and see how many of these details you can spot! 

[Featured Image Credit: IMDB]

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