Great white shark attacks on people really are honest mistakes, scientists show

Great white sharks rarely bite people (even though we hear about them when they do), but new research from Macquarie University supports the old theory that attacks are actually the result of mistaken identity. Young great whites have bad vision and easily confuse surfers and swimmers with fat seals. Honest mistake! From the New York Times:

From the bottom of aquariums at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, the researchers attached a GoPro to an underwater scooter traveling at the speed of a cruising shark. They recorded videos of two sea lions, one fur seal, swimming people and people paddling on three different types of surfboards (the boards came from the personal collection of [neurobiologist Laura] Ryan, who surfs).

Dr. Ryan and colleagues edited the GoPro footage in a computer program to translate the lens of a video camera to the retinas of a young white shark. They stripped the video of some color and rotated them all so the overhead objects moved from the bottom to the top of the screen. Then the researchers ran the videos through a series of statistical analyses at a range of resolutions to glean whether a juvenile white shark might be able to discern between the objects.

In the shark's-eye view, the researchers found no significant difference between a swimming person, a paddling surfer or a meandering seal or sea lion. 

image: Sergey Uryadnikov/