Friday, 4 August 2017

Tech: The biggest myth about sharks that will make you fear them less

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It's not what you are, it's what you look like.

That sharks represent a risk to swimmers and surfers isn't news to beachgoers. But these predators are not actually looking to feed on humans.

To better understand why a tiny number of sharks do sometimes bite people, we interviewed George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research and manager of the International Shark Attack File. Following is a transcript of the video.

Of course the biggest myth of sharks is that they are all man-eaters. And probably 95% of all shark species have never bitten a human.

My name is George Burgess. I serve as director of the Florida program for shark research at the Florida Museum, which is part of the University of Florida.

There are a relatively small number of sharks that actually get involved in shark bites. Any species that gets about six feet or so in length is a potential danger simply because — whether they intend to bite the human as prey items, or just by mistake — the jaw is big enough to do damage. So those are the ones we are most concerned about.

In the ocean sometimes, humans simply are the right size for those animals to give a shot at because we are in the appropriate size range, and oftentimes were are behaving in an appropriate fashion for the things they normally eat.

In areas where seals or sea lions are found, of course, we look an awful lot like a seal or a sea lion when we are at the water surface, or even more so if we have a black wet suit on. But that said, none of these species are going after humans normally as prey, simply because we are not part of the food chain.

We are not members of the marine environment — heck, we can’t even breath underwater. So we are occasionals when we are there. We are ecotourists when we enter the sea. So as a result, sharks are not looking for humans as normal prey items.

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