So I’m watching Shark Week on Discovery, and I’m amazed at how big the tail fins of some of these sharks are. The Great White sharks they’re showing on this particular show, in particular, have some really gigantic tail fins. So it got me to thinking.
Clearly most, if not all, of the shark’s ability to propel itself through the water comes from the tail fin and the way it is swished back and forth through the water, right? So let’s say you had something capable of cutting through the shark’s skin and muscle and cartilage – some kind of Niven-esque molecular monofilament or shadow square wire or something. And you’re swimming across the ocean, minding your own business, when J. Random Shark comes up and attacks you. If you could somehow cut its tail off[sup]1[/sup], would the shark still be a threat to you? Or would it just … I don’t know … sink slowly away while looking at you with a sad and pathetic “What did you do that for?” look on its face?
Can they still outswim a human even with no tail, or are they pretty much helpless?
[sup]1[/sup]Note: I’m not saying this would be remotely possible in real life, mind you, nor am I advocating the cutting off of sharks’ tails as something you should do unless you are in mortal danger, since it seems pretty mean.