With all the reported shark activity at the minute, some important things to know, perhaps…

Shark.  Etymology uncertain.  But predominantly thought to come from the Mayan word Xoc, which means fish.  Until the 16th century, sharks were known to mariners as “sea dogs”.  For years, surfers have been referring to sharks as “men in grey suits”.  In the old country, we call them Noahs – Noah’s Ark – shark.

Michael Capuzzo, author of Close to Shore – the book which inspired Jaws (which is blamed incidentally for a lot of bad Noah PR), is complimented for undertaking enormous research for his acclaimed book including a fulsome interview with an eminent ichthyologist.  What’s an ichthyologist you might wonder?  Well, NOT necessary an expert in sea lice, but could be!

Ichthyologist – Ichthyology (from Greek: ikhthus, “fish”; and logos, “study”) is the branch of zoology devoted to the study of fish.

Anyway, MC asked if swimmers could reduce their risk of shark attack and the ichthyologist basically said:

No bling (catches the light like fish scales) and no dog (sorry Scotland Island dog swim – the mutts splash too much apparently).  Be circumspect about going in the peloton near those peeps that wear lurid togs (sharks see contrast really well) – or maybe contemplate newd swimming, but only if you have an ALL over tan.

Or swim with a lawyer? (Why won’t a shark attack a lawyer swimming in the ocean?  Professional courtesy.)  The ichthyologist didn’t say that though.

He (George H. Burgess, International Shark Attack File, Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida) did say –

“The bright yellow color [sic, because he’s American] traditionally used in water safety flotation devices and rafts is readily seen by human rescuers looking for missing persons in the sea and likely is seen easily by sharks as well.  As a result, shark researchers laughingly refer to this color as “yum yum yellow!”

Have Surf Life Saving Australia thought this through I wonder?

Allegedly dogs (maybe another reason not to swim with one) or bees attack more people every year.  Even falling coconuts kill more people every year than sharks.  In the US 1990 – 2006, there is a greater risk of being injured in a sand hole collapse than being fatally attacked by a shark.

 There are three major kinds of unprovoked shark attacks.  Apparently.  (So says our eminent ichthyologist anyway).

Hit and run Bump and bite Sneak attacks
Most   common.  Typically occur in the surf   zone.  The victim seldom sees its   attacker.  Shark does not return after   inflicting a single bite or slash wound.    Probably cases of mistaken identity.    Injuries to “hit and run” victims are usually confined to   relatively small lacerations.  [So,   suck it up, buttercup!] Less   common.  Characterized by the shark circling   and often bumping the victim prior to the actual attack.  In both cases, unlike the pattern for   “hit and run” attacks, repeat attacks are not uncommon.  Injuries are usually quite severe. As   for “bump and bite” but “Sneak” attacks differ because the strike   occur without warning.Right,   so no “excuse me” bump first then?

What type of shark bit me?  Who cares!  I’m not going to be stressing about whether it’s a hexanchiformes, squaliformes or orectolobiformes.  That said, there are more than 350 identified species of shark in the world.  They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and include such crazy critters as the spiny dogfish, (tiny [500mm]) but scary (gouges flesh from its victims) cookiecutter or cigar shark, basking, frilled, horn, cat, swell, silky, smoothhounds, megamouth, carpet, angel, cow, bramble, rough, prickly and goblin.  A lot, are fussy eaters.  And many, are vegetarian.  But some species, like tiger sharks, unfortunately, eat almost anything.

Some interesting facts from Wikipedia:

  • Sharks can only drift away from objects directly in front of them because their fins do not allow them to move in the tail-first direction.  [On that basis, they should join the emu and the roo on the Australian coat of arms].
  • In the past, sharkskin has been used as sandpaper.
  • Some sharks, if inverted or stroked on the nose, enter a natural state of tonic immobility.  Tonic immobility is a natural state of paralysis.  The shark remains in this state of paralysis for an average of fifteen minutes before it recovers.

They have ‘nares’ (like nostrils) and ‘spiracles’ (like a second set of nostrils under their eyes which they use while resting on the ocean floor because otherwise they might breathe in sand!).  4 nostrils then – what would you expect from one with such acclaimed olfactory prowess?

It’s been claimed that sharks are immune from disease and cancer; but apparently this is not scientifically supported. Sharks may get cancer.  It’s also apparently not true that fins prevent cancer.  So, Can Too is for sharks too.  Don’t eat me, let me raise money for a cure!

Anyway, you decide.  Ocean swims – tantamount (as Brody alluded to opening New Jersey beaches on the 4th of July) to ‘ringing the dinner bell for Christ’s sakes!’?

In the meantime, check out these shark movies (thanks Kieran for the link).

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