Stories of surfers being attacked by sharks are common. They have lead to some people to speculating that sharks attack human beings for food. However, this is a misconception. It has been found that specific attacks on humans are rare.
There are two main reasons why sharks have attacked humans. One, they mistook the victims for a fish or a seal. They assume that the victims are what they are not. Two, the victim had strayed into the shark’s territory. Sharks, like any other animals, obey their animal instincts. When they feel that they are threatened by the presence of another creature, they would attack to defend themselves or their territories.
Often, shark attacks are not fatal. After taking a bite and tasting the human victim, they would realise that the victim is not their usual food and release him. Why then would they mistake a human being for their usual prey?
Humans who have been victims of shark attacks are usually surfers or those riding on boogie boards. In water, these victims bear close resemblance to turtles and sea lions; they appear roughly oval in shape with legs and arms dangling and paddling. Mistaking humans for those animals, sharks would move in to attack them.
The species of sharks that are most responsible for attacks on humans are the Great White (Carcharodon carcharias), Tiger (Galeocerdo cuvier), and Bull (Carcharhinus leucas) sharks but according to a report, these sharks do not attack humans because they are aggressive but that there are just more humans taken to coastal waters in areas where these sharks can be found.
“Why do sharks attack people?” by newsround. CBBC News, n.d. URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/find_out/guides/animals/sharks/newsid_3911000/3911131.stm (accessed on 3 Arpil 2010).
“How shark attacks work” by Ed Grabianowski. How Stuff Works, 30 October 2008. URL: http://adventure.howstuffworks.com/shark-attack.htm (accessed on 3 April 2010).
“Good recession news: Shark attacks down” by Ronald Bailey. Reason, 24 February 2009. URL: http://reason.com/blog/2009/02/24/good-recession-news-shark-atta (accessed on 3 April 2010).