Sharks

Albertthegreat's picture
Albertthegreat started the topic in Wednesday, 12 Aug 2020 at 11:05pm

With all the shark sightings, interactions, attacks of late I am perplexed as to why the majority of people hold the belief that shark attacks are generally a case of mistaken identity and that sharks don't want to/mean to attack/eat humans? I can't imagine there is any scientific evidence to support this theory and the only way to prove this would be to ask a shark politely if this was the case. Was just wondering if people could enlighten me as to why this is the general consensus. I have never heard this theory put forward in regards to attacks by any other dangerous animal and was wondering why sharks in people's opinion are the only species who only ever attack humans by "accident"? Doesn't seem to make much sense to me personally.

Albertthegreat's picture
Albertthegreat's picture
Albertthegreat commented Wednesday, 12 Aug 2020 at 11:06pm

With all the shark sightings, interactions, attacks of late I am perplexed as to why the majority of people hold the belief that shark attacks are generally a case of mistaken identity and that sharks don't want to/mean to attack/eat humans? I can't imagine there is any scientific evidence to support this theory and the only way to prove this would be to ask a shark politely if this was the case. Was just wondering if people could enlighten me as to why this is the general consensus. I have never heard this theory put forward in regards to attacks by any other dangerous animal and was wondering why sharks in people's opinion are the only species who only ever attack humans by "accident"? Doesn't seem to make much sense to me personally.

Solitude's picture
Solitude's picture
Solitude commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 8:23am

When you read the media or forums such as this it so common for authors to put human constructs and ideologies onto the shark (great white specifically) and their behavior.

We are talking about a highly evolved and prehistoric predator and any attempt to attach human ideas and construct to such an instinctive, elusive and unpredictable creature to me seems both delusional and irrational.

That is not to say we don't attempt to understand the species better however comments alluding to ideas such as a GW's motivation, thoughts or preferences (to name a few) are completely unfounded and likely way off the mark.

Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 9:51am

Relevant query Albert,but the old "sillouete of a paddling surfer from below" surely is the reasoning behind the Mistaken Identity theory. GWS aren't particularly smart,but they are curious. Mistakes involving humans happen amongst many predatory species however. There were reports of a young surfer carrying a Zebra-striped Anti -shark surfboard being attacked by a lion while walking through coastal scrub in South Africa some years ago

groundswell's picture
groundswell's picture
groundswell commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 10:59am

I dont believe its mistaken identity at all. I believe smaller sharks than 4 metres bight then wait for the prey to bleed out so they dont get injured.

DudeSweetDudeSweet's picture
DudeSweetDudeSweet's picture
DudeSweetDudeSweet commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 4:21pm

I can see how it happens.

One morning , after a few beers the night before , I mistook a tube of Zovirax for my tiny travelling toothpaste and proceeded to clean my teeth with cold sore cream.

Terminal's picture
Terminal's picture
Terminal commented Thursday, 13 Aug 2020 at 5:57pm

Solitude on the money with anthropomorphising animal behaviours, sensationalist news outlets are particularly guilty of this. Ray and Groundswell both have valid points. If you want to get to the bottom of it, Alby, jump on Google scholar and enter the search terms "mistaken identity" shark, as I've typed it with the inverted commas. You'll get a plethora of material that is peer-reviewed studies and expert opinion. Narrow your search as required from there. In terms of mistaken identity in other species, I think that it's probably pretty widespread, just not as discussed outside behavioural ecologist circles. I don't think it's a topic many would find that interesting outside of behavioural ecologists.