Sharks: Bites against humans may be a case of mistaken identity

Situations of sharks biting people are uncommon, and researchers assume they might occur when the marine predators confuse us for different species


26 October 2021

Underwater view of someone paddling on a surfboard

Sharks could mistake surfers for seals

Shutterstock / Dudarev Mikhail

People and seals look remarkably related within the water from an amazing white shark’s perspective, suggesting that shark bites on people could also be a case of mistaken identification.

Though shark bites on people are extraordinarily uncommon, they trigger a major and disproportionate quantity of public concern.

“By higher understanding why sharks are biting folks we are able to provide you with higher mitigation applied sciences which can be much less invasive for sharks and different marine life, while being efficient for people,” says Laura Ryan at Macquarie College in Australia.

Ryan and her colleagues made separate video recordings of a seal and a sea lion swimming of their tanks at Taronga Zoo’s aquarium in Sydney, Australia, and likewise recorded folks swimming and paddling on a surfboard in a tank. They used a static digicam mounted to the underside of every tank, trying up, and a digicam mounted to an underwater scooter that mimicked the motion of an amazing white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), one of many three principal shark species answerable for shark bites on people.

To evaluate the visible similarity of the surfers and animals from the angle of juvenile nice white sharks, that are accountable for almost all of shark bites, the workforce analysed the video recordings utilizing a mannequin of the sharks’ visible system, taking into consideration their color blindness and incapability to see element.

The workforce discovered that the sharks would see little distinction between the movement of people swimming, people paddling on surfboards and seals and sea lions swimming. The workforce additionally discovered that seals and sea lions with their fins out regarded related in form to human swimmers and surfers.

These findings present that nice white sharks could discover it onerous to visually distinguish people, seals and sea lions from under, supporting the concept that shark bites are instances of mistaken identification.

“Sharks have this historic dangerous public notion, as senseless, man-eating animals. We’re exhibiting that that’s not the case,” says Ryan. “They’re following what their visible system is telling them is potential prey.”

Daryl McPhee at Bond College in Australia says: “Whereas we are able to by no means remove unprovoked shark chunk, the work contributes to designing additional evidence-based visible approaches which will scale back the chance of a white shark chunk occurring.”

Journal reference: Journal of the Royal Society Interface, DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2021.0533

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