Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Fact of fiction?

Is the great white shark really mistaking divers with seals? Don't be so sure about that! Posted by Picasa

The facts:

You would never know it from the evening news, but the last thing you should worry about at the beach this summer is a shark attack. The odds of drowning are far greater. Yet despite the attention they receive, shark attacks and their causes are widely misunderstood, experts say.The most popular myth? That sharks are attracted to swimmers who wear bright colors.

R. Aidan Martin, the director of the ReefQuest Center for Shark Research in British Columbia, said this particular rumor stemmed from studies years ago that followed groups of navy divers wearing standard dark uniforms. Those who stood out because they also wore a pair of bright flippers, for example, were more likely to be attacked.But the reason has to do with contrast, not bright colors.

Like any predator, sharks look for prey with any features that separate them from the pack, a possible sign that the animal has an injury or abnormality that makes it more vulnerable. "Sharks are very good at detecting these slight differences," Martin said.So good, in fact, that a shark is unlikely to mistake a diver or swimmer for a seal, which is another widespread myth.

When a great white shark attacks a seal, for example, it rushes toward the animal at about 30 miles an hour and smacks it out of the water with devastating force. When a shark approaches a swimmer, it does so slowly and deliberately.

The bottom line:

Sharks are attracted to contrast, not bright colors, and they do not mistake people for seals.


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