Great white shark attacks on humans may be case of mistaken identity, study suggests

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On the uncommon juncture a large achromatic shark attacks a human, the wound whitethorn beryllium the effect of mistaken identity, according to caller research.

A survey by Australian scientists suggests the apex predator whitethorn not beryllium capable to visually separate surfers and swimmers astatine the water’s aboveground from their earthy prey.

“They’re not these mindless killers, but we conscionable hap to look similar their food,” the study’s pb author, Dr Laura Ryan of Macquarie University, said.

The squad compared video footage of swimmers, radical paddling surfboards, and seals from the position of a large achromatic shark viewing from beneath successful the water.

Taking into relationship what a shark is apt to spot erstwhile looking up astatine a idiosyncratic oregon seal against the inheritance skylight, the researchers concluded that neither the silhouette signifier nor question cues were capable for a shark to intelligibly archer them apart.

The probe supported the mentation that large whites bash not actively question retired humans arsenic prey.

Great whites are thought to beryllium much palmy successful hunting prey astatine the water’s surface. Sharks are besides thought to beryllium colour blind, oregon to person lone constricted quality to comprehend colours astatine best.

“Their acuity, oregon their quality to spot detail, is overmuch little than ours,” Ryan said.

As portion of the study, the researchers estimated the ocular acuity of large whites based connected the operation of their retinas. They focused specifically connected juvenile large whites, which are liable for a ample proportionality of attacks connected humans.

Juveniles whitethorn person worse eyesight than big sharks, arsenic good arsenic a greater overlap successful situation with humans, Ryan said. “As the shark grows, the oculus becomes bigger – and arsenic the oculus becomes bigger, they besides tin spot much detail.”

“Between astir 2.5 metres and 3.5 metres [long] is erstwhile they commencement to incorporated seal into their diet,” Ryan said. “In presumption of the full sensory repertoire, they’re not arsenic finely tuned arsenic an big who’s evidently much experienced.”

There did not look to beryllium immoderate ocular quality betwixt swimmers and surfers, which Ryan said was surprising. Previous probe suggests that surfers are astatine the highest hazard of fatal shark bites, peculiarly from juvenile large achromatic sharks.

A amended knowing of wherefore sharks wound humans would assistance to make strategies to mitigate against them, Ryan said. “We’re trying to alteration the silhouette [at the water’s surface] and looking astatine the relation of the silhouette successful bites by achromatic sharks, which tin see utilizing lights oregon antagonistic illumination.”

Ryan said much probe was needed into different taxon progressive successful shark bites, specified arsenic bull shark and tiger sharks. “We’re not definite if mistaken individuality applies to them. Seals aren’t a communal prey point for them but they bash devour things similar turtles … and things floating astatine the surface.”

The survey was published successful the diary Royal Society Interface.

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