While everyone knows that sharks are natural-born killers, few realize how deep the killer-instinct runs: in many species, shark embryos in their mothers’ wombs routinely cannibalize their siblings. Sharks, then, go on murderous sprees even before they are born.
Yet, these fearsome creatures aren’t what you would expect. They don’t prowl beaches looking for tasty humans to swallow up. If you want to stay safe from shark attacks, you need to understand them a little more deeply than most people do. These tips from ichthyologists (or shark experts) should help you stay safe.
Sharks actually hate eating people
Sharks have evolved over millions of years to eat seals, fish, crabs, turtles and other marine life. In general, they don’t seem to have a taste for land animals, especially humans. Sharks that take a bite out of humans usually spit the flesh out. They apparently hate eating you as much as you hate being eaten.
What this should tell you is that if you’re in the ocean, you should try your best to not look like a large sea creature. High-contrast swimsuits are a bad idea, and you shouldn’t wear anything small and shiny. The light reflecting off them can make sharks think of fish scales.
It takes all kinds of sharks to make an the ocean
While most sharks have an identifiable physical form, behavior from one species to the next can be very different. Some sharks really are out-of-control predators. Others like the megamouth shark, though, are harmless, and only feed on plankton. One kind of shark, in particular, has an interesting feeding preference — the cookiecutter shark — only takes one tiny cookie-sized bite out of each victim before moving on. Whatever kind of shark you want to avoid, your best bet is to stay close to a group of other swimmers. Like other predators, sharks go for easy pickings as far as possible. Isolated swimmers make for easy prey.
Sharks have a spectacular sense of smell
While sharks have openings on their snout that look just like nostrils, they don’t breathe through them (they have gills for breathing purposes). They use them just for their powerful smelling ability.
Contrary to the claims on many exaggerated pseudoscientific reports, sharks aren’t able to smell a single drop of blood from a mile off. They are able to do it from several feet away, though. To keep sharks away, then, you need to make sure that you don’t ever get into the water at a beach if you are bleeding.
Learn something about sharks’ hunting habits
Sandbars: While sharks tend to hang around deep in the ocean, they do make their way close to the coast sometimes. When they do this, they don’t like being in places where they feel exposed. Instead, they hide out behind sandbars and large rocks. If you see sandbars on your beach, then, you should stay well away from them.
Avoid places with lots of fish: You should understand that sharks don’t simply turn up close to beaches for the fun; they come only if they sense that there are plenty of fish to eat. If you see many people fishing in an area, then, you need to stay away. The bait fishes that they use could attract sharks. If you’ve read reports about the release of sewage in the water in your area, that should tip you off, too. Sewage tends to attract fish. The presence of these fish tends to attract sharks.
Avoid certain times of the day: Humans have something in common with sharks: both need to eat first thing in the morning and late in the evening. One of the easiest ways to avoid a shark attack, then, is to simply stay out of the water at these times.
Be careful with your pet: Sharks are intelligent enough to be able to tell different swimming patterns apart. The swimming methods that dogs use tend to particularly attract sharks. If there is a threat of sharks in the water, dogs should stay on the land.
Sharks hate dead sharks
When a shark smells a dead shark nearby, it tends to fear that whatever killed it could still be around. It then swims away as quickly as possible. For most of the twentieth century, the US Navy used chemicals such as copper sulphate and copper acetate to help sailors drive sharks away. These are the chemicals that come off dead sharks. When you put some in the water in the ocean, any sharks in the area will disappear. These days, electronic shark repellent devices are the best choice.
If all else fails, get aggressive
As far as humanly possible, you want to avoid getting anywhere near a shark. If you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of being under attack by a shark, though, you want to try to scream for the attention of those nearby, and run or swim away, if you possibly can. If one directly attacks you, though, you want to try to fight back as aggressively as possible. You should remember that the shark isn’t the only predator around. Humans are predators, too. You can act the part.