According to the study, white sharks, bull sharks and tiger sharks are responsible for the vast majority of shark attacks on humans.
As white sharks can’t see fine details or colours, the scientists discovered that surfers, swimmers, and pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) on the ocean’s surface appear to be the same to a white shark looking up from below, Laura Ryan, the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher in animal sensory systems at Macquarie University’s Neurobiology Lab, said.
Surfers are the most vulnerable to deadly shark bites, particularly from juvenile white sharks, she added
After all, the long-held belief that some sharks attack humans may be correct.
Because of how closely surfers, paddle boarders, and swimmers on the ocean’s surface resemble seals and sea lions, new research from Australia’s Macquarie University suggests that many shark bites by great whites could be a case of mistaken identity.
According to Ryan, the study will help scientists better understand what causes sharks to bite humans.
Scientists at the Neurobiology Lab have been inspired by the findings to develop non-invasive, vision-based gadgets that could protect surfers and swimmers from shark bites.
The current study, which was published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, was a hands-on experiment based on the researchers’ years of research into the neurobiology of white sharks’ visual systems.
In the lab, the researchers used extensive shark neurobiology data to apply filters to video footage before creating modelling algorithms to replicate how a juvenile white shark might understand diverse object movements and forms.
People swimming and paddling on surfboards resemble seals and sea lions to a juvenile white shark, according to the findings. Smaller surfboards were harder to distinguish from pinnipeds, making them a more appealing meal for white sharks than longboards or stand-up paddleboards, which usually target smaller, young pinniped pups.
Although the chances of being bitten by a shark are slim, Australia remains one of the locations where they happen most frequently, accounting for six of the world’s ten unprovoked fatal shark encounters in 2020.
Shark attacks on people have increased dramatically in the last 20 years, and according to Ryan, surfers may be at a higher danger than swimmers since they spend more time in the ocean and are frequently in deeper water.