All rights reserved. But on a handful of occasions they attack straight away, breaking the pole and the camera. In fact, this species appears responsible for the majority of shark attacks worldwide. Gray reef, lemon, dusky, blue, sand tiger, nurse, and Ganges River sharks will also attack humans. Now she was doing it for real. “They generally just ignore people. If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter, called “The Essential List”. Like the scars on her leg, it is a reminder of what can happen on the rare occasions that sharks do choose to attack the humans who stray into their domain. It is like they are in a heightened predatory state where their senses lock onto any kind of stimuli. So far in 2019, there have been four fatal shark attacks. Now I am scared of it. The eastern US and southern Australia have seen shark attack rates almost double in the past 20 years, while Hawaii has also seen a sharp increase. Yet great whites – the species depicted in the film Jaws and demonised by Hollywood ever since – isn’t just a separate species, but an entirely different taxonomic order from the other two. Historically, they are joined by their … Great whites in the North Atlantic, for example, show seasonal movement patterns, migrating thousands of miles to warmer waters further south during the winter months. - Steer clear of schools of fish, particularly if they are leaping out of the water. The real reasons why sharks attack humans. Still, there is good money to be made by hunting these sharks so many people do take that risk of being bitten. “I started getting dreams and would wake up screaming at night. “Fear has played a very important role in our evolution,” adds Chapman. One person spied a 2.5m bull shark slowly cruising in the shallows near Como Beach on January 29, 2018. With the board in its mouth, the shark pulled Mighall underwater for a second time. “Shark attacks cause a lot of personal loss, but the impact they can have on the wider community is often not considered,” says Dave Pearson, one of the founders of Bite Club, which offers support to the survivors of shark attacks. However, Naylor believes that the official statistics on shark attacks are probably an underestimate. The fear of sharks is a common one, not helped by fear-inducing movies like Jaws, Deep Blue Sea, and Red Water. Out of more than 480 shark species, only three are responsible for two-digit numbers of fatal unprovoked attacks on humans: the great white, tiger and bull; however, the oceanic whitetip has probably killed many more castaways which have not been recorded in the statistics. They have been known to bite horses that are in the water getting a drink. These sharks account for many of the bites around the south-eastern US, migrating down the coast of Florida due to rising sea temperatures that have led their prey to become more dispersed. The Bull Shark is known to eat almost anything. Some estimates suggest shark numbers in Australian waters, for example, have declined by between 75-92%. “After my attack, lots of my friends didn’t go back into the water for a long time,” he says. Scientists have also been testing an electromagnetic barrier as an alternative to shark nets. “It gave me some idea of what a seal feels like,” he says. Mighall’s cousin, 33-year-old Syb Mundy, who had been sitting on his own board just a few metres from her, raced over and began punching the shark in the side of its head. “I’ve seen that behaviour a couple of times over the years we have been doing this. Sadly, last autumn, Massachusetts suffered its first fatal shark attack in 82 years and growing numbers of shark sightings have led to a string of beach closures. Her shark posters have gone, as has her enjoyment of the sea. Looking at the statistics for the number of shark attacks last year can reveal some fascinating trends. It is a figure that has remained around the same level over the past decade. What makes the sharks even more frightening is that a few of requiem species, such as the grey reef shark, have a distinctive threat posturing. These three species are dangerous largely because of their size and tremendous bite power. Great white sharks typically attack their prey from below with great speed, delivering a single devastating bite (Credit: Getty Images). Preventing shark attacks involves some common sense and a little knowledge of shark behavior. The average number of unprovoked attacks between 2013-2017, for example, was 84. The bull shark is the best known of 43 species of elasmobranch in 10 genera and four families to have been reported in fresh water. “When I popped back up from the water I was lying on my back but my leg was in its mouth. Glad you asked. Some mature adults will venture out into the open ocean for months at a time, covering tens of thousands of miles and diving to depths of 1,000m as they seek prey. Yet great whites – the species … A similar story is unfolding in Reunion where the local authorities have banned surfing and swimming in the water at certain times of the year due to fears about further shark attacks. It is known for its aggressive nature, and presence in warm, shallow brackish and freshwater systems including estuaries and rivers. Offspring. It could, ultimately, also help to tell us something about the reasons underlying attacks on humans, he says. He should know – last year, as he was leaning over the pulpit on the bow of a research vessel while trying to tag a shark, a large great white breached directly underneath him with its jaws agape. She was sitting astride her surfboard, enjoying the warmth of the sun as she and her cousin waited for the next wave in Tasmania’s idyllic Bay of Fires. In some areas, the local authorities themselves have taken action. Those dangerous few are the Great White, Tiger, Bull and Oceanic White Tip Sharks. Do bears attack humans? But for every attack on a person, there are just as many stories of people who have managed to get up close to these giant predators without any harm. Most shark attacks involving sea disasters, e.g. To those who witnessed what happened, however, it was anything but gentle. "By number of attacks they are often rated as the third most dangerous in the world. Bull sharks are aggressive, common, and usually live near high-population areas like tropical shorelines. However, while there are over 360 species of shark, only 4 have been known to attack a human unprovoked. The preferred prey includes bony fish, small sharks, turtles, birds, and some species of dolphins. Mighall was one of roughly 83 people around the world to be attacked unprovoked by sharks in 2009. Skomal and his colleagues are now using new high-resolution tags that can give the researchers minute by minute and second by second data on what the sharks are doing. The crystal-clear water beneath 13-year-old Hannah Mighall darkened for a moment. Instead she tends to prefer swimming or kayaking on rivers. These figures are blunt instruments, of course. In Australia the rate of shark attacks is in the order of 0.5 attacks per million people, while in the US it is less than 0.2 attacks per million. Bull sharks are often considered to be the most dangerous sharks to humans because of their aggressive tendencies and ability to migrate up rivers. During this quest, we have tried many things to avoid shark attacks unsuccessfully. “We are like helpless little sausages floating around in the water,” says Naylor. White sharks have a physiological adaptation that allows them to maintain a vast global distribution, and hence are responsible for the northernmost and southernmost recorded shark bites on humans. Most of the time we put a camera in the water and the sharks are completely complacent. The reason for the fall – which bucks the overall trend of growing numbers of attacks – has been attributed to a sharp decline in the number of black-tipped sharks. The majority of unprovoked attacks on humans where a species is identified involve three large culprits: the great white, tiger and bull sharks. “Many of them never fully recover and the psychological scars can be even greater than the physical ones,” he says. Bull sharks get their name from their short, blunt snout, as well as their pugnacious disposition and a tendency to head-butt their prey before attacking. - Avoid swimming around dawn or dusk. They are only behind the Great White Shark and the Tiger Shark. Historically, they are joined by their more famous cousins, great whites and tiger sharks, as the three species most likely to attack humans. I think if people knew how frequently they were in water with sharks, they would probably be surprised.”. Attacks on remote islands or in less developed communities probably go unreported. “Humans don’t need to be eaten themselves by a sabre tooth tiger to learn to fear them. But despite being potentially such an easy meal, sharks are really not that interested in hunting humans. Take Ocean Ramsey for example, who swam alongside an enormous 20-feet-long great white off the coast of Hawaii and made headlines around the world. What I do have is some first hand knowledge of how some of the shark species implicated in attacks on humans behave and how that behavior might determine why sharks attack. Bull Sharks . I used to think sharks were cool, but now I am terrified of them, although I still [have] respect for them.”. They both entitle her to fear these animals. Swimming in groups and staying close to the shore are known to reduce the risk of attacks. A pair of orcas were filmed apparently hunting a great white shark off the coast of South Africa. It also is one of the best-known types of requiem shark. So no, bull sharks are a danger to humans. Tiger and bull sharks rarely attack humans, and to someone being bit by one of these huge creatures, there isn’t all that much difference between them. Finally the bull shark’s favor of shallow water means that it is probably been the cause of more human attacks than other species. I thought I was having a nightmare and kept trying to blink my eyes open.”, The shark that attacked Hannah Mighall took an enormous bite out of her surfboard before it allowed her to bob back to the surface (Credit: Malcolm Mighall). We must have done it thousands of times. But these statistics, however ridiculous or comforting they might seem, do little to dampen our fear of sharks. Only a few species of shark are dangerous to humans. Bull sharks are the least known shark species responsible for attacks on humans. Of the hundreds of shark species, there are three most often responsible for unprovoked shark attacks on humans: white, tiger, and bull sharks. Great Whites get most of the headlines but Bull Sharks may be the most dangerous shark of them all. • The man who ran out of air• Can technology save you from a shark attack• A titanic network to monitor the ocean. Do bull sharks attack humans? The animal had bitten clean through the fibreglass and foam. If a shark sees a human splashing in the water, it may try to investigate, leading to an accidental attack. He himself was attacked by a bull shark while surfing eight years ago in south-west Australia, nearly losing his arm when the animal smashed into him, bit into his forearm to the bone and carried him underwater. I ended up seeing a psychiatrist to help me get over this.”. Similarly, seal populations off Cape Cod on the coast of Massachusetts in the US have rebounded in recent years, largely thanks to protection by the US’s Marine Mammal Act introduced in 1972. For those who fear them without having had such a close encounter she has a sound piece of advice. Those who survive often lose limbs. Mundy grabbed hold of his cousin, put her on his back and paddled frantically for the shore. These sharks are Viviparous, which means pup sharks develop in the womb of its mother, similar to humans. We learn that fear very quickly from a single story. This ocean dweller is also highly adaptable to environmental conditions. I have been diving with and observing Great White Sharks for over 17 years at Guadalupe Island and been around Bull- , Tiger - and Hammerhead Sharks for more than 6. Researchers have found that around two-thirds of the Reunion attacks have occurred in turbid water and swells of more than two metres – the favoured environment for bull sharks, which are thought to be responsible for most of the attacks. “(Great) white sharks, which often hunt in very clear water use their vision a lot more and their eyesight is much better,” says Chapman. Mighall still has the surfboard she was riding on the day of her attack, a huge toothy bite missing from one side. “If you are frightened, you can always stay out of the water.”. But recent research indicates that shark attacks in some parts of the world appear to be on the rise. Aside from rising human populations along coastlines, the destruction of habitat, changing water quality, climate change and shifts in prey distribution are leading sharks to gather in greater numbers at certain hotspots around the world. Join one million Future fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter orInstagram. The bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas), also known as the "Zambezi shark" (informally "zambi") in Africa, and "Lake Nicaragua shark" in Nicaragua, is a requiem shark commonly found worldwide in warm, shallow waters along coasts and in rivers. If sharks aren't interested in eating humans, why do they attack us? Chapman believes that heavy commercial port construction in the area damaged large areas of reef and mangrove, potentially displacing species like bull sharks, which moved to new areas like Recife in search of prey. However, shark attacks are extremely rare. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Capital, and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday. The resurgence in seal populations on Cape Cod on the east coast of the US has led to rising numbers of great white sharks in areas popular with people (Credit: Getty Images). “Then this wave came in and Syb just said, ‘We have got to catch this as it is going to save our lives.’ I was just tapping the water as I was terrified but he was really paddling and the wave carried us to shore. Moments later she popped back up to the surface with her damaged board. The large human populations along the southern coast of Australia and the eastern coast of the US mean large numbers of people enjoying the water. Great Whites get most of the headlines but Bull Sharks may be the most dangerous shark of them all. Chapman believes there may be a complex set of reasons for why unprovoked attacks on humans appear to have risen in recent decades. 3. Photograph by Mattias Klum, Nat Geo Image Collection, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/fish/b/bull-shark.html. They are listed as the 3rd largest risk to humans when it comes to sharks. Nonetheless, a single bite can grievously injure a human if the animal involved is a powerful predator such as a great white or tiger shark. The findings highlight one of the key challenges in understanding why sharks bite humans. White sharks are known to have ‘tasted’ a variety of animals and objects, including seabirds, kayaks, boats, plastic bags, and … White sharks don’t have arms like we humans do and so their mouths are their best exploratory tool when it comes to up-close investigations. The water around Mighall exploded as a five-metre-long great white shark latched onto her right leg, lifted her off the surfboard and shook her in the air before disappearing underwater. Pearson says this is a common problem in shark attack victims. Bull sharks are part of the Big 3 (Great Whites, Tigers and Bulls), that are responsible for the majority of attacks on humans. Luckily for Mighall, among the few people on the beach who witnessed what had happened that day were a doctor and a nurse. “It took a few seconds for me to realise it was a shark,” she says. Still, of the more than 375 species in the world only about 30 have ever been reported to even have attacked humans. Among the most likely sharks to attack humans, bull sharks favor shallow coastal watersâthe same places humans prefer to swim. They are gray on top and white below, and the fins have dark tips, particularly on young bull sharks. Some researchers are turning to forensic methods to try and unravel some of the reasons behind attacks. “I’d be fine and then I’d get this weird feeling and start looking around,” she explains. But regardless of the reasons for attacks on humans, the risks involved are still vanishingly small. So, why are so few people attacked by sharks? Almost any large shark, roughly two meters or longer in total length, is a potential threat to humans. “Different species have such a range in terms of their sensory biology, how they behave, their motivations and the habitats they live in.”. What I do have is some first hand knowledge of how some of the shark species implicated in attacks on humans behave and how that behavior might determine why sharks attack. “The fear spreads really quickly.”, A spate of shark attacks on Reunion Island led to calls for the local authorities to take action beyond bans on swimming and surfing (Credit: Getty Images). I have been diving with and observing Great White Sharks for over 17 years at Guadalupe Island and been around Bull- , Tiger - and Hammerhead Sharks for more than 6. 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