Shark attacks could be a case of mistaken identity

Evelyn Leckie
Swellnet Dispatch

International and Australian scientists have tested the long-held theory that some shark attacks could be the result of mistaken identity, challenging the common notion that great whites are "mindless killers" or "fond of human flesh."

Researchers have studied the anatomy of shark eyes to gain a perspective on what they might see underwater while they look up to the ocean's surface for prey.

Lead researcher from Macquarie University Dr Laura Ryan said it is the first study of its kind.

"Until now, the potential similarity between humans and seals has been assessed based on human vision," she said. 

"However, white sharks have much lower visual acuity than us, meaning they cannot see fine details, and lack colour vision." 

Mistaken silhouettes 

Flinders University associate professor Charlie Huveneers said the studies are indicating sharks are likely mistaking the silhouettes of surfers for their natural prey like seals.

"Humans have three different types of cones to process colour, while sharks only have one type of cone — which means they're unlikely to see colour," Mr Huveneers said.

"While they're well adapted to see underwater, their acuity is not as good as previously thought and the ability to discern the resolution of images isn't that great.

"That's why, when you compare the silhouettes of seals and humans from a shark's perspective and from a vision and anatomical perspective, there are no differences between seals and the surfers."

Why sharks bite

Mr Huveneers said the study could contribute to reducing the risk of shark bites.

"In the last few years, we've seen an increase in the number of shark bites globally and also in Australia," Mr Huveneers said.

"There's been some questions about what could be the reason behind why sharks might be biting humans and a better understanding might help us mitigate these risks."

The researcher said a combination of devices that deter sharks and knowledge from this recent study could help reduce the risk of shark bites.

"There's no silver bullet, or one device or product which will completely reduce the risk; it's a combination of these devices that together can reduce the risk," he said.

The researchers acknowledged sharks can also detect prey using other sensory systems.

"What we're showing from a vision perspective and an anatomical perspective is there seem to be sharks that are not the best at differentiating different objects on the surface," Mr Huveneers said.

Dr Ryan noted "the findings of this study have inspired the design of non-invasive vision-based shark mitigation devices, which are currently being tested".

© Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

Comments

Standingleft's picture
Standingleft's picture
Standingleft Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 2:59pm

The last thing an apex predator needs is a long strong bone or a biscuit of toxic foam and fibreglass wedged in its mouth, it has no teeth to chew with, just teeth to shred flesh but the 'see food, bite food' instinct is a proven winning strategy.

simsurf's picture
simsurf's picture
simsurf Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 3:17pm

If that was the case why wouldn't they attack small boats more often as well? surely it would look like the largest seal they have ever scored?

Shaun Hanson's picture
Shaun Hanson's picture
Shaun Hanson Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 3:17pm

By Jingoes who would of thought !...sharks think where seals !
Hope it didnt cost to much to figure that out ...

Gowsa's picture
Gowsa's picture
Gowsa Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 5:06pm

Yep
Stop wasting money on researching the Bloody Obvious and spending it on Prevention Testing (eg the Stripes theory). We have plenty of data on Sharks now, lets use it for something. Uni Nerds !!!

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 3:22pm

Magnificent, noble, misunderstood and downtrodden beasts.

(Anyone else noted the tendency of all animal docos now to anthropomorphise the animals? Eg, "Karen the gazelle, who has made this perilous journey every season of her life, now fights for it as she crosses the river, inhabited by Simon and Val the crocodiles." Eg "Now it's time for Dave and Teresa, the praying mantises, to mate." They are nuts.)

Shaun Hanson's picture
Shaun Hanson's picture
Shaun Hanson Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 3:34pm

Simsurf they sense activity in the boat or on the board and they check it out ...if there in wound up mode they will hit it...other times they will ignore it... an electric deterrant can drown out the activity so they dont sense it and when they do and come and look it puts out something they dont like and hopefully turn em away ..but sometimes they are just wound up enough they will go anything...if a shark is chasing something like a jewie and a surfer ends up in the line of sight the shark is goona be interested ... with the amount of rec boats fishing these days they may even associate anything substantial that floats a potential food source probably yelling out hey throw a fkn tuna on a rope at me willya ...and the fact there are more of em .. ...

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 5:12pm

1978 called and wants its “mistaken identity “ attack theory back.

Seriously people, with the amount of humans consumed after repeat bites in crystal clear water, can we just admit that most sharks don’t want to eat people…..until they do.

FFS. Articles like this make scientists out to be ideologically driven retards.

I’d love to be there when this dumb cunt scientist tells the survivors of the USS Indianapolis that half their shipmates got eaten by the most tragically myopic sharks in world history.

wallpaper's picture
wallpaper's picture
wallpaper Wednesday, 24 Nov 2021 at 10:43am

jesus are you fucking serious?

Someone submits an article to swellnet about some other bloke at a uni making some quite interesting (and relevant ie re colour vision for all the yellow striped wetsuit or whatever crew) observations about the physiology of sharks eyes and adds something else about attacks for the general public and you somehow get to 'Articles like this make scientists out to be ideologically driven retards."?

If there is actually a retard competition going on it's not 'the scientists' who are looking at a podium finish here. (this is also directed at the authors of some similarly idiotic comments further upstream)

boogiefever's picture
boogiefever's picture
boogiefever Friday, 26 Nov 2021 at 2:03pm

Fuck.... Time to put the bong down hey blowjob. U got an opinion on everything and none of them are educated, nor interesting. Id take a scientists findings over the ramblings of a geriatric, has-been boomer any day....

wally's picture
wally's picture
wally Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 5:50pm

I guess then that sharks must think dolphins, rays, turtles, crustaceans, dead whales and a very wide variety of fish species all look like seals too.

Solitude's picture
Solitude's picture
Solitude Wednesday, 24 Nov 2021 at 6:00am

Love it wally. Made me giggle.

radiationrules's picture
radiationrules's picture
radiationrules Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 5:53pm

Dr Ryan noted "the findings of this study have inspired the design of non-invasive vision-based shark mitigation devices, which are currently being tested". - is he referring to Shannan Worrels' "Shark Eyes" business - I'm not aware of any other "ision-based shark mitigation devices" - any else aware of any?

Leebo20's picture
Leebo20's picture
Leebo20 Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 5:59pm

What's the best device for surfers at the moment?

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 6:03pm

Always wax up before a session, don’t drop in on anyone who’s bigger than you and only look once at the hot chicks on the beach or else you’ll be branded a pervert.

Leebo20's picture
Leebo20's picture
Leebo20 Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 6:33pm

Haha

Ben Harding's picture
Ben Harding's picture
Ben Harding Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 8:33pm

Haha well played

brandonrooney14's picture
brandonrooney14's picture
brandonrooney14 Thursday, 25 Nov 2021 at 7:38am

Clear boards so you don't really cast a silhouette?

joesydney's picture
joesydney's picture
joesydney Thursday, 25 Nov 2021 at 10:59pm

Stop surfing now…..

Shaun Hanson's picture
Shaun Hanson's picture
Shaun Hanson Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 6:11pm

Fuck i think im a pervert

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 6:16pm

We’re all perverts.

The trick is convincing the community that your mind is busy thinking about deforesting koala habitat for an eco resort or something else socially acceptable.

Anything but admiring the opposite sex as your genetics dictates. That’s evil!

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 7:40pm

Charles Darwin would have looked twice.

Shaun Hanson's picture
Shaun Hanson's picture
Shaun Hanson Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 7:51pm

What if its only non - invasive vision - based ..

Johknee's picture
Johknee's picture
Johknee Wednesday, 24 Nov 2021 at 11:57am

We only look twice because it's mistaken identity and they look like seals

Shaun Hanson's picture
Shaun Hanson's picture
Shaun Hanson Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 6:16pm

An old ab diver told me once if he sees a shark he act like a squid ...shits and splits

seaslug's picture
seaslug's picture
seaslug Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 8:05pm

Haha, good one Shaun

Leebo20's picture
Leebo20's picture
Leebo20 Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 6:36pm

So still basically take a cupfull of cement

nextswell's picture
nextswell's picture
nextswell Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 7:57pm

Endless summer 2, Pat and Wingnut in France with Tom Curren.
Pat was mesmerised by the topless wonders of south west France . As always Tom offered some sage advice, you don’t look back and you definitely don’t go back for a second look. Advice that has always kept me out of trouble.

SA Wetdog's picture
SA Wetdog's picture
SA Wetdog Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 8:08pm

Haha but Pat couldn't help himself and had to do a 2nd walk past! I met Pat about 10 years ago at the Greeny surf club! After 12 schooners I thought we were best mates and proceeded to quote about 80% of the movie to him. He reckoned he had only watched it once and couldn't remember all the classic quotes, pretty sure he was very politely trying to get me to stop. Got some classic pics with him and my mate. Good fella!

nextswell's picture
nextswell's picture
nextswell Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 8:16pm

Haha great story. Pat sounds like a good bloke. Wish I was there for the schooners

tsunalu's picture
tsunalu's picture
tsunalu Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 9:38pm

Pretty sure sharks have been eating humans since humans crawled out of the evolutionary slime. Sharks have been making mistakes for at least 60 000 years, dumb smucks!

wally's picture
wally's picture
wally Wednesday, 24 Nov 2021 at 7:03am

Yeah, and non-wetsuited humans standing in the water can get bit so their seal recognition skills must be really bad.

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter Tuesday, 23 Nov 2021 at 10:12pm

haha good one boys . Good to get a laugh here for a change.
Luckily I have excellent peripheral vision..
Also , never say "I was just looking for somewhere to park my bike" if you do get busted , I've never seen that one get a positive reaction yet.

But just on the shark thing , I thought scientists , and that includes some of the researchers in that study ,didn't want them being referred to as "shark attacks" anymore. ?
Though it Looks like that's from the author of the article and not the scientists , they seem to be only referred to as 'shark bites' here by them.

Cockee's picture
Cockee's picture
Cockee Wednesday, 24 Nov 2021 at 8:41am

Great to see the taxpayer dollar getting such high returns on the investment. I'd like the research to be extended to determine if grey nurse sharks really are maneaters.

Vince Neil's picture
Vince Neil's picture
Vince Neil Wednesday, 24 Nov 2021 at 9:07am

great whites diet changes from pure fish to fish and mammal at some stage in their life cycle. Like dogs, they rely on their mouths to test things. Could be they are curious, could be they hungry could be they are just bastards. But you'd think if they were really into human flesh, there would be multiple attacks every day.
Everyone who surfs regularly must have had a great white literally sniff their toes at some point and move on (in most cases)

Yep agreed, what about a dirty big black stripe across your board? will that confuse them.

I think Orcas have got a lot to answer for. They scare the crap out of whites, where are all the lazy, self-serving, over fed Orcas?

Vince Neil's picture
Vince Neil's picture
Vince Neil Wednesday, 24 Nov 2021 at 9:20am

my theory is there is a glut of juvenile great whites in the system (following the protection of whites, it would have taken a no of years for the females to mature, breed and their offspring to reach mammal testing stage. Interesting if the ages will level out over time - will the big sharks predate and keep the juvenile numbers down? will it be a pryamid structure like the crocodile who bosses a river mouth? are juveniles v big sharks more likely to attack? how likely are they to fight each other? does the male die in the mating ritual, given the females are bigger?

Shaun Hanson's picture
Shaun Hanson's picture
Shaun Hanson Wednesday, 24 Nov 2021 at 12:54pm

I agree with you vince on glut of GW teenagers and time frame since protecting GW ..there's no shortage of food with increasing whale population and i believe seal colony's strong as well salmon no longer commercially fished in any state and plenty around . Very few mullet fisherman left so plenty of grass in the paddock ...bit of a worry if current lift in numbers continues and flows into higher numbers of all sizes continuing at current rates ... there's no reason why it won't there's not threat to sharks at all in australia next to no commercial fishing except for government shark net's .Shark fin industry all but shut down in australia so no illegal fishing effort here ..And finning pretty much shut down world wide for that matter . Im not condoning finning just stating the past threat that reduced shark numbers ..guess it is up to the killer whales there's no way the local state or federal government is going to admit there is an issue let alone do anything about there's no votes in it and there shit scared of WWF who would probably do a cull them selves they have no issue turn coating if you pay them enough ...so we just have to live with it i guess ...

Fwin Tins's picture
Fwin Tins's picture
Fwin Tins Wednesday, 24 Nov 2021 at 3:58pm

Research proposal: Are shark attacks on humans a case of mistaken identity?

Research “APPROVED.”

Researching finding: Shark attacks on humans are a case of mistaken identity.

Research outcome: Further funding is needed to research this protected species and consolidate its protected status and therefore ensure some semblance of stable employment in the future.

Robo's picture
Robo's picture
Robo Thursday, 25 Nov 2021 at 7:31am

no kidding

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Thursday, 25 Nov 2021 at 7:39am

Remember when those bull sharks ate that girl at Stradbroke?

They probably mistook her for a 3m flattie.

frog's picture
frog's picture
frog Thursday, 25 Nov 2021 at 8:34am

So many embarrassed and confused Great Whites swimming around pondering their big mistakes - some with full bellies not so much.

But they are not alone:

"Authorities say a crocodile that attacked a girl in the Kimberley was most likely confused."

"As crocodiles also feed on monkeys, mistaken identity may occur due to humans resembling primates in the eyes of the reptiles."

"The attacks take place because of mistaken identity. A human being washing clothes on the river bank may appear something similar to a four-legged prey"

When attacked I think we need to be cognisant of the GW's confusion and not exacerbate their guilt and pain. Perhaps we should bark like a seal so the awkwardness of the mistake can be smoothed over. Or offer them counselling.

Solitude's picture
Solitude's picture
Solitude Thursday, 25 Nov 2021 at 1:10pm

Some of the above straight faced scientific inferences are dead set comical. However some of the SN comments are just that, thanks for laughs gang (wally, blowin, frog).

I've said it before, it amazes me the preoccupation that people have with giving apex predators such as the GWS human constructs and reasoning.

Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous Thursday, 25 Nov 2021 at 2:50pm

I haven't laughed out loud in ages. Thanks all.
Mistaken identity double-takes on bikini girls cracked me..
Maybe humans are to sharks, what lizards are to humans: not real tasty, but you know, if you were hungry-enough...???
I AM NOT A ROBOT - glad I passed that test!

frog's picture
frog's picture
frog Friday, 26 Nov 2021 at 7:57am

Pleased to report 100% success with my Shark Eyes so far. Will give you all an update if the success rate drops.

Eliza Feely's picture
Eliza Feely's picture
Eliza Feely Friday, 26 Nov 2021 at 9:19am

Why is there never any correlation made between the devastating decrease in global fish stocks and the behaviour of sharks?! Ocean warming isn't helping the situation - fish stocks are on the brink of collapse. Of COURSE sharks are going to test /bite alternatives floating about above them! They have survived for thousands of years and are in the process of adaption. Love how humans belittle other species as dumb or impulsive when really we are the only species dumb enough to trash our own habitat. @Oceanramsey has well researched behavioural understanding of sharks and often offers up tips -which seem easier said than done- but hey, good to know :)

Solitude's picture
Solitude's picture
Solitude Friday, 26 Nov 2021 at 3:02pm

I hope in our lifetime we get to see the effects of drastically reduced commercial fishing. Nice point.

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter Friday, 26 Nov 2021 at 5:46pm

Not sure how a "global" fish stock assessment relates to White shark behaviour in Australia. The majority of our local stocks are now well managed and there's no shortage of fish here to validate a theory that low fish numbers cause sharks to attack humans.
I could also argue that an increasing stock status of our local fisheries may actually attract more sharks and affect their behaviour towards swimmers/surfers as well. It's pretty much well known that many attacks occur during mass local fish migrations.

boogiefever's picture
boogiefever's picture
boogiefever Friday, 26 Nov 2021 at 6:36pm

@tubeshooter.
"It's pretty much well known that many attacks occur during mass local fish migrations".
Mate.... Hearsay and gossip dont cut it when your trying to argue against science facts.

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter Friday, 26 Nov 2021 at 8:54pm

Hearsay and gossip ?
https://ewn.co.za/2015/06/28/Shark-attacks-may-be-due-to-fish-migration-...
"Shark expert Dr. Allison Koch said" what is likely the case here is that there is an increase in sharks in that area possibly due to an increase in prey. So it is an unusual situation and therefore people need to be extra vigilant at this time"

boogiefever's picture
boogiefever's picture
boogiefever Friday, 26 Nov 2021 at 10:58pm

"Not sure how a "global" fish stock assessment relates to White shark behaviour in Australia."
So tube.... After writing the above sentance....u are going to quote a south african article????
Bahahahaha.......
Pick a direction dude....

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter Saturday, 27 Nov 2021 at 12:45am

Not sure what rock you live under mate. I was quoting a qualified scientist on the issue specifically about how some shark attacks are 'possibly and probably' related to migrating fish schools,,but anyway..Go your hardest .
This one mentions the climate change issues mentioned above {that should tick a box for you}
and how it's apparently changing the migration patterns of migrating fish and driving sharks closer to shore.
https://edition.cnn.com/2020/10/18/australia/australia-shark-attacks-cli...

If you're bored these 2 are a good read.

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190808-why-do-sharks-attack-humans

https://taronga.org.au/sites/default/files/content/pdf/Changing_patterns...

Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw Friday, 26 Nov 2021 at 7:32pm

And the reverse is even truer

Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw Saturday, 27 Nov 2021 at 9:39am

**** just to clarify, I was counter-phraze-ing Boogiefever's comment by offering this. ." Science Facts don't stack up when you're arguing against Heresay&Gossip" .

Cockee's picture
Cockee's picture
Cockee Friday, 26 Nov 2021 at 9:29pm

Sharkhugger Eliza writes 'Why is there never any correlation made between the devastating decrease in global fish stocks and the behaviour of sharks?! ' Possibly because no such correlation exists or if one did, it would be futile to try to prove it. BTW Belittling 'dumb' humans is OK but don't do it to animals lest they develop a complex?

Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw Friday, 26 Nov 2021 at 9:53pm

didn't the shark problem at Reunion coincide with Increasing fish stocks from a marine sanctuary?

Solitude's picture
Solitude's picture
Solitude Saturday, 27 Nov 2021 at 6:26am

I can’t really see how a wild environment with more fish, more sharks, rays, whales, plankton, etc etc can ever be a bad thing for Australia or indeed the world.

Eliza Feely's picture
Eliza Feely's picture
Eliza Feely Saturday, 27 Nov 2021 at 12:51pm

You gotta be tough to enter these forums- everything is up for attack (Woo! Saturday pun) but a fair point was made about the shark increase at Reunion- and I also reckon tho- have no proof- just logically speaking I'd say the shark population got healthier there cos there was no fish elsewhere and attracted them/ helped them stay. We need to address overfishing everywhere to regain balance of species populations. Australia is overfishing more than a third of its fish according to SBS article on Nov 21 ( crap at links sorry) https://www.sbs.com.au/news/a-tenth-of-fish-stocks-globally-now-on-the-b... Other reports on Australian fish stocks are politically slanted because conservative governments want the vote of fishers and have proved themselves to be anti marine park. I'm not paddling out in a trough full of fish to test my theory either...esp today as it's howling Easterly... prob why I'm typing on Swellnet too

Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw Saturday, 27 Nov 2021 at 1:12pm

Yeh and there were other factors too, one being a ban on Shark fishing,i think. So more or less the same thing that's happened here

Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw's picture
Ray Shirlaw Saturday, 27 Nov 2021 at 1:16pm

Ps would more GWS= less fish?

boogiefever's picture
boogiefever's picture
boogiefever Saturday, 27 Nov 2021 at 7:01pm

Time you left the thinking to adults Ray.

I think? Maybe, possibly?.....not exactly commonly used science terms.
Its all Hearsay and gossip and wont even get by 2nd grade let alone peer reviews and scientific scrutiny.

I think....maybe, it possibly might be time you started dealing in facts..... Maybe?

Cockee's picture
Cockee's picture
Cockee Saturday, 27 Nov 2021 at 8:14pm

'Other reports on Australian fish stocks are politically slanted because conservative governments want the vote of fishers and have proved themselves to be anti marine park'. Sorry you feel so intimidated Eliza but you appear to be another sharkhugger blaming the LNP for all the world's problems (no relation to viclocal by any chance?). It is, in fact, Victoria's Labor Govt which is hell-bent on increasing 'fishers' (wtf?) - they have a 'target 1million' program. But, have to say it's nice to have a (solitary) female contributor on swellnet.

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter Saturday, 27 Nov 2021 at 9:00pm

A brief run down on Oz fish stock status.. without the politics.
https://www.fish.gov.au/reports/key-results

For a full run down on individual species and fisheries ...
https://www.fish.gov.au/reportstock?kw=&page=1&sort=LatestFirst

There is obviously work to be done still but by and large things have improved a great deal and continue to do so.

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter Sunday, 28 Nov 2021 at 10:55pm

I just read that SBS article and global study ,there's a few holes in the references to Australian Fisheries numbers .
for a start ,,re Oz ,,,"The study found 38 per cent of the nation's fish stocks are overfished and 60 per cent of its catch comes from unassessed stocks."

Well , according to peer reviewed stats put out by the FRDC(fisheries research and development corp.) in the bi annual SAFS (status of fish stocks) reports, that I posted links to above , don't seem to match.

302 stocks out 477 are deemed sustainable.(63.3%)
However,,, those stocks supply 134,738t out of a total catch of 146,941t.. that is 91.7% of our total landed catch.
Another 16 stocks are considered recovering and supply a further 6,617t , which is another 4.5% of total catch.

17 stocks classed as depleting contributing 1,695t ,, (1.15%)
36 stocks classed as depleted contributing 2,085t ,,,(1.42%) ..All have recovery management programs in place.

There were 70 stocks classified as undefined (contributing 1,779t or 1.21%) and a further 36 classified as negligible.

The undefined stock classification does not necessarily mean that the stock is at increased risk; it means that there is limited or conflicting information available to undertake the assessment.
Stocks classified as negligible are unlikely to be at risk due to their very small size.

And here's a vid with the FRDC Director of Programs to explain the SAFS in detail,

EasyRider's picture
EasyRider's picture
EasyRider Monday, 6 Dec 2021 at 10:30am

"Non-invasive vision-based shark mitigation devices"? Paint an ORCA on the bottom of your board???? According to Dr Google "Orcas are the only natural predator of the great white. Scientists have found proof that they are gashing the sharks open and eating their fatty livers. ... Orcas have been observed preying on great white sharks all over the world."