Sharks! What are they? Big scary monsters? Do you think of sharks coming out of the depths at you? Our active imaginations have made sharks into modern day monsters. But do you really know what your chances are of getting attacked by a shark? We all know this about sharks, don’t we? They’re vicious, they’ll eat anything, they all want to eat people, and they’re everywhere. Well, just think about this. Most shark species (about 80%) have never even attacked a human.
And of the ones that do, it adds up to about 100 people, each year, worldwide… and most of these victims survive. In fact, most sharks are small, harmless and don’t live anywhere near us. So now that we know the facts, let’s look a little more closely at the life of a shark and how they really behave. First things first: how keen are they to get themselves some human flesh? Hardly at all, as it turns out. Their job is to live by eating, breathing and reproducing – just like any other animal. They eat fish and other marine animals.
People are not part of their normal diet. Some sharks are even plankton-eaters. And they don’t eat all that much! According to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, sharks that have been studied eat about 2% of their body weight per day – slightly less than most humans. That means a 45-kilogram (100 pound) shark would probably eat food equal to about five hamburgers a day! And think about this: If white sharks really were attacking humans for food, why is it that nearly 75% of these attacks are non-fatal? Why do they stop eating?
The answer, according to most experts is that they’re looking for something with more fat. People are too scrawny. And that’s why; after it takes a first bite, a great white will usually turn up its nose at whatever remains. So why exactly do they attack, if they don’t want us? About the only time sharks attack humans on purpose is when their territory is invaded or their courtship rituals are interrupted. Anyone with a pet knows that any animal can become fierce when strangers invade its space. Sharks are just the same.
Most other shark attacks are probably also cases of mistaken identity: a swimmer’s flapping feet and hands may look like the movements of a fish darting through the water; a human, especially one wearing a black wet suit and flippers, may look something like a seal. But don’t even assume that because you can aggravate them, that there’s danger waiting on your beach. The beaches aren’t full of great white sharks, just waiting for us. Far from it. In fact, great whites are relatively uncommon, and they prefer cooler waters. What’s more, in some parts of their range, great whites are close to being endangered.
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