Shark bites often case of mistaken identity

JAMESTOWN, R.I. (WLNE) — Nothing strikes fear in the heart of beachgoers quite like the sight of a fin in the water. Thanks to media portrayals of fish with personal vendettas, the fear is often amplified. The truth is your odds of being involved in a shark encounter are very very small.

Dr. Jason Ramsay, local shark expert and associate professor of biology at Westfield State University, explained certain cues might trigger them to take a bite in order to see what it is. A certain pattern of movement or flash mimicking prey might provoke the shark to investigate. This is where things can take a dramatic turn.

To understand how shark bites happen in the first place, you have to understand the anatomy of the shark. Their main sense organs are in their mouth and snout. In order to identify something in the water to determine if it’s prey, they take a small bite rather than blindly trying to consume it.

Taking a test bite is a way a large predatory shark gets information on what the prey is. Unfortunately, with rows of sharp teeth designed for tearing, this test bite is often bloody, and sometimes fatal.


To stay safe in the ocean, Ramsay suggests using the DIP system.

D: Dusk and dawn. Sharks feed at these times of day, so avoid swimming at dusk and dawn.

I: Isolate. Don’t swim or dive alone.

P: Prey. Don’t swim near shark’s prey. Avoid seals and groups of fish and don’t swim where people are fishing.

The simple fact of the matter is: when a shark bite occurs, it’s very much a case of mistaken identity.

Categories: Scientifically Speaking