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Postal News: Millions of sharks to surface among the nation’s post offices

August 2, 2017
By PHIL WIEBOLD , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Don't worry - these sharks won't bite. They're smaller than a clam and flatter than a flounder.

The U.S. Postal Service will celebrate the wonder of sharks by issuing the Sharks Forever stamps featuring five species that inhabit American waters - the mako, thresher, great white, hammerhead and whale shark.

The stamps went on sale July 26 and are available at post offices nationwide and at:

Article Photos

The U.S. Postal Service’s Sharks Forever stamps featuring five species that inhabit American waters — the mako, thresher, great white, hammerhead and whale shark.

Artist Sam Weber based his five illustrations on images captured by undersea photographers. Using those references and the guidance of shark experts, he created clear, realistic depictions of sharks in action. Sketching first with a pencil, Weber then used his computer to add detail, dimension and color.

Art director Derry Noyes designed the pane.

"While sharks may be scary to some, the prospect of a world without sharks is truly frightening," U.S. Postal Service Chief Human Resources Officer and Executive Vice President Jeffrey Williamson said. "As apex predators, sharks keep other marine life in balance, and by doing so, they play a critical role in regulating our largest ecosystem - the oceans. As one of the nation's oldest public service institutions, the Postal Service takes pride in using its stamps to raise awareness of important issues. We hope the stamps unveiled today help highlight the need for shark conservation and a greater respect and admiration for these incredible animals."

"This Postal Service initiative is a great thrill for conservation-minded shark lovers everywhere," Whitney said. "It should inspire everyone to support science-based management of these animals so that we can have sharks forever in our oceans, as well as on our envelopes."

Misunderstood creatures

Possibly no other creatures are as mythologized - and as misunderstood - as sharks. Blockbuster thrillers and sensationalized media have fueled belief that sharks are monsters: unthinking, bloodthirsty, vengeful and primitive.

While they are ancient creatures having emerged twice as long ago as the first dinosaurs, after 400 million years of evolutionary refinements, sharks are extraordinarily advanced organisms. The 500 or so known shark species are ideally adapted for their ecological role.

The adaptations of sharks include light, flexible skeletons of cartilage, teeth replaced without limit, and skin covered by a hydrodynamic surface of tiny tooth-like structures. Their enviably keen senses include one that detects electrical signals given off by prey and enables navigation by Earth's magnetic field. Their nervous systems are adapted to sense miniscule water movements - from a struggling, far-off fish for instance.

Primal fears aside, people threaten sharks more than they do us. Sharks are overfished - often before reaching reproductive maturity. Cutting off fins for a soup delicacy also collapses populations. There is hope. Shark ecotourism allows us to witness their grace. Increased study expands our knowledge of these fantastic creatures.

The first row of stamps features the swift, streamlined shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) knifing through the water near the surface. Its great speed and soaring leaps, epitomizes shark athleticism.

The second stamp on the first row shows a pelagic thresher (Alopias pelagicus). The most distinctive feature of this shark is its unique, whip-like tail that rounds up and stuns prey.

Weber began his illustration assignment with the great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), the third stamp on the first row. Its notorious jaws are packed with sharp, serrated teeth. This species epitomizes sharks in so many peoples' minds. This artwork inspired the style and palate that Weber used to portray the other sharks.

The fourth stamp on the first row depicts the world's largest fish, the sluggish, filter-feeding, school bus-sized whale shark (Rhincodon typus). Docile and colossal, it skims for plankton, fish and squid. This design is repeated as the first stamp in the second row.

The second stamp on the second row features the hammerhead shark. The broad head of the hammerhead shark, represented by this scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini), has sensors that detect sand-buried stingrays. The artwork depicts it as one type among the three large hammerhead species.

The image of the great white shark looms large on the wide margin of selvage at top, with the issuance title, "SHARKS," superimposed flush left with five rows of four stamps each. The shade of blue on the selvage deepens as one looks down the pane, an effect suggesting sunlight barely penetrating the inky ocean depths.

You may view many of this year's other stamps on Facebook at: or via Twitter @USPSstamps.

Phil Wiebold is a spokesman for U.S. Postal Service.



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