Bull Shark Facts Firstly, experts best know the appropriately named Bull Shark for its aggressive nature. What makes the sharks even more frightening is that a few of requiem species, such as the grey reef shark, have a distinctive threat posturing. But this list does include the fastest shark, the shortfin mako, which has been clocked at 20 miles (32 kilometers) per hour [source: Allen]. Instead she tends to prefer swimming or kayaking on rivers. One person spied a 2.5m bull shark slowly cruising in the shallows near Como Beach on January 29, 2018. They gave her vital first aid while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. On a recent visit to Ballina, a surfing hotspot in New South Wales, Australia, he saw just what a shark attack can do to a town. The large human populations along the southern coast of Australia and the eastern coast of the US mean large numbers of people enjoying the water. But these statistics, however ridiculous or comforting they might seem, do little to dampen our fear of sharks. Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean – renowned for its beautiful, unspoiled marine habitats – has seen a dramatic rise in tourism but in recent years it has also suffered a growing number of shark attacks by the bull and tiger sharks that live in the surrounding waters. “I wonder if those strikes on people that are not merely investigative are the result of a person being in the wrong place at the wrong time with a shark in this kind of heightened state.”, Efforts to tag great white sharks is starting to provide insights into the behaviour and life cycles of these enormous predators (Credit: Getty Images). Aside from rising human populations along coastlines, the destruction of habitat, changing water quality, climate change and shifts in prey distribution are leading sharks to gather in greater numbers at certain hotspots around the world. Various types of requiem sharks have attacked humans 56 times, with seven unprovoked fatal attacks on record [source: International Shark Attack File]. “The more sharks and people there are in one place, the greater the chance of them bumping into each other.”. No, bull sharks are the main shark that hangs around where people swim and they bump you to get you to fall over, then attack. Other species that enter rivers include the stingrays (Dasyatidae, Potamotrygonidae and others) and sawfish (Pristidae). With the board in its mouth, the shark pulled Mighall underwater for a second time. All I could see was my black wetsuit leg, its teeth, pink gums, teeth and the dark bit under its nose where it meets white. All rights reserved. But for those who are afraid and want to know how to protect themselves from a shark, some advise punching a biting shark in the gills or poking it in the eyes. The bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas), also known as the "Zambezi shark" (informally "zambi") in Africa, and "Lake Nicaragua shark" in Nicaragua, is a requiem shark commonly found worldwide in warm, shallow waters along coasts and in rivers. “I was standing there watching these perfect waves coming in but there was not one person in the water,” he says. Bull sharks have an average length of 8-10 feet and weigh about 300-400 lbs. These figures are blunt instruments, of course. There are also a number of shark deterrents on the market that use electrical or electromagnetic pulses to interfere with the animals’ senses, but these have mixed results, according to research. Instead, smart drum lines – which use baited hooks attached to a system that sends out an alert when triggered – are now being trialled at several beach locations along the coast of western Australia. In Australia the rate of shark attacks is in the order of 0.5 attacks per million people, while in the US it is less than 0.2 attacks per million. One study has found that their average lengths have declined significantly over the past few decades. Do bears attack humans? © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society, © 2015- Join one million Future fans by liking us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter orInstagram. But southern Australia has also seen rising numbers of fur seals along its coastline, the favourite prey of great white sharks in the region. “It gave me some idea of what a seal feels like,” he says. Mundy grabbed hold of his cousin, put her on his back and paddled frantically for the shore. “We are like helpless little sausages floating around in the water,” says Naylor. Almost any large shark, roughly two meters or longer in total length, is a potential threat to humans. Mighall still has the surfboard she was riding on the day of her attack, a huge toothy bite missing from one side. Read about our approach to external linking. The first clue comes in the pattern that most shark attacks take. This seems like an obvious point, but when you look closer at where attacks are taking place there are some clues as to what might be going on. Feeding is not the reason sharks attack humans. Attacks on remote islands or in less developed communities probably go unreported. “When you have a large animal like a tiger or a white shark, which move quickly, a bite is far more likely to be fatal.”. Peirce recommends avoiding estuaries, particularly where there are bull sharks -- which, along with great whites and tiger sharks, are the most likely to attack humans. Out of more than 480 shark species, only three are responsible for two-digit numbers of fatal unprovoked attacks on humans: the great white, tiger and bull; however, the oceanic whitetip has probably killed many more castaways which have not been recorded in the statistics. But on a handful of occasions they attack straight away, breaking the pole and the camera. But there is no real evidence that sharks are actively hunting humans, according to the scientists who study them. In the case of great white sharks, which, along with bull and tiger sharks, are the largest and most dangerous species known to attack humans, there is compelling evidence from survivors of attacks suggesting that the sharks may simply have been investigating what they considered to be foreign objects in the water. Tiger sharks have also been known to attack humans. “It took a few seconds for me to realise it was a shark,” she says. “Fear has played a very important role in our evolution,” adds Chapman. The sudden shadow below made Mighall instinctively lift her feet – balls of kelp often broke off nearby rocks and drifted in the surf. “I’d be fine and then I’d get this weird feeling and start looking around,” she explains. White sharks don’t have arms like we humans do and so their mouths are their best exploratory tool when it comes to up-close investigations. Bull sharks, for example, tend to hunt in shallow, murky water that will require them to rely less on vision and more upon their sense of smell and electroreception, which allows them to detect minute electrical fields produced by their prey. The bull shark is also known as the zambezi shark. Bull sharks have also been known to travel thousands or miles up freshwater rivers. “When I popped back up from the water I was lying on my back but my leg was in its mouth. Her right leg is noticeably weaker than her left – so much so that she has to lift it with her hands when she wants to kick-start the dirt bike she rides occasionally. Tiger sharks are one of the three main species responsible for attacks on humans but much of the time they ignore people in the ocean (Credit: Getty Images). 2020 National Geographic Partners, LLC. Bull sharks are aggressive animals that typically hunt in water with reduced visability (Credit: Getty Images). The reason for the fall – which bucks the overall trend of growing numbers of attacks – has been attributed to a sharp decline in the number of black-tipped sharks. Tiger and bull sharks rarely attack humans, and to someone being bit by one of these huge creatures, there isn’t all that much difference between them. “They generally just ignore people. Fast, agile predators, they will eat almost anything they see, including fish, dolphins, and even other sharks. A handpicked selection of stories from BBC Future, Culture, Capital, and Travel, delivered to your inbox every Friday. What I do have is some first hand knowledge of how some of the shark species implicated in attacks on humans behave and how that behavior might determine why sharks attack. Those dangerous few are the Great White, Tiger, Bull and Oceanic White Tip Sharks. Looking at the statistics for the number of shark attacks last year can reveal some fascinating trends. It is worth noting that in 2018, the US figures dropped to around 0.08 attacks per million while in Australia they rose to 0.8 attacks per million people. The findings highlight one of the key challenges in understanding why sharks bite humans. - Avoid wearing jewellery as light reflecting off metal or a watch might look like a darting fish to a shark. During this quest, we have tried many things to avoid shark attacks unsuccessfully. Offspring. Like the scars on her leg, it is a reminder of what can happen on the rare occasions that sharks do choose to attack the humans who stray into their domain. Bull sharks are found all over the world. Do bull sharks attack humans? Skomal and his colleagues are now using new high-resolution tags that can give the researchers minute by minute and second by second data on what the sharks are doing. White sharks have a physiological adaptation that allows them to maintain a vast global distribution, and hence are responsible for the northernmost and southernmost recorded shark bites on humans. These sharks are Viviparous, which means pup sharks develop in the womb of its mother, similar to humans. In the majority of recorded attacks, the shark bites the victim, hangs on for a few seconds (possibly dragging the victim through the water or under the surface), and then lets go. Finally the bull shark’s favor of shallow water means that it is probably been the cause of more human attacks than other species. When a shark takes the bait, an alert is sent to response teams who catch, tag and then release the shark in a safer location. Last year, there were just 66 confirmed, unprovoked attacks, roughly a 20% fall compared to previous years. “I never had that before – I was a water baby and loved the water. Bull sharks get their name from their short, blunt snout, as well as their pugnacious disposition and a tendency to head-butt their prey before attacking. They are listed as the 3rd largest risk to humans when it comes to sharks. - Avoid swimming around dawn or dusk. They are large, aggressive and have a mouth full of sharp serrated teeth. Glad you asked. Overall, the bull shark may be the most dangerous species because of its aggressive attack patterns and its preferred habitat - shallow coastal waters. Pearson says this is a common problem in shark attack victims. Getting into water where there are lots of bait fish that can attract sharks will increase your risk of being bitten (Credit: Alamy). I have been diving with and observing Great White Sharks for over 17 years at Guadalupe Island and been around Bull- , Tiger - and Hammerhead Sharks for more than 6. Other research, however, has suggested that great whites are more successful hunters at night when there is a full moon. Attacks can be provoked and unprovoked. - Avoid excess splashing, as sharks are drawn to the noise of injured animals. If, for example, a body was dumped in the water as a result of criminal activity then the shark might eat it then change its taste. Sand tigers, hammerheads, and makos are also responsible for some attacks, while a third of shark attacks are made by lesser known species, such as black tips, nurse sharks, and various reef sharks. If humans reacted to bears the way they have with sharks, Linnell said it would be akin to “going out into the forest and randomly shooting the first 1,000 animals that you see”. We learn that fear very quickly from a single story. The fear of sharks is a common one, not helped by fear-inducing movies like Jaws, Deep Blue Sea, and Red Water. But regardless of the reasons for attacks on humans, the risks involved are still vanishingly small. Humans are not, per se, on their menus. We could see its fin as it surfed in on the same wave.”. Swimming in groups and staying close to the shore are known to reduce the risk of attacks. There is also some evidence that shark teeth may also function as mechanosensory structures – similar to touch – to help the animals learn more about what they are biting. In fact the largest species, the whale and basking sharks… You can get more tips from this entertaining, but informative video made using Lego by Naylor's children. The animal had bitten clean through the fibreglass and foam. They were both thinking about closing.”. Many areas now operate shark patrols to spot sharks before they enter areas used by swimmers and surfers so they can be alerted (Credit: Getty Images). He himself was attacked by a bull shark while surfing eight years ago in south-west Australia, nearly losing his arm when the animal smashed into him, bit into his forearm to the bone and carried him underwater. “The shark was circling us underwater,” says Mighall. But recent research indicates that shark attacks in some parts of the world appear to be on the rise. Most of the time we put a camera in the water and the sharks are completely complacent. The majority of unprovoked attacks on humans where a species is identified involve three large culprits: the great white, tiger and bull sharks. In some cases they will withdraw while their prey bleeds to death before returning to eat. They are very territorial and they will attack anything that gets into their environment and they feel is a risk. Moments later she popped back up to the surface with her damaged board. So, why are so few people attacked by sharks? Researchers have found that around two-thirds of the Reunion attacks have occurred in turbid water and swells of more than two metres – the favoured environment for bull sharks, which are thought to be responsible for most of the attacks. However, they frequent the turbid waters of estuaries and bays, and often attack people inadvertently or out of curiosity. Earlier that day Mighall had been practicing water rescues with another girl during training with her local Surf Life Saving association, repeatedly being carried into shore as the “victim”. 3. The majority of unprovoked attacks on humans where a species is identified involve three large culprits: the great white, tiger and bull sharks. Mighall was one of roughly 83 people around the world to be attacked unprovoked by sharks in 2009. Mighall’s cousin, 33-year-old Syb Mundy, who had been sitting on his own board just a few metres from her, raced over and began punching the shark in the side of its head. Great Whites get most of the headlines but Bull Sharks may be the most dangerous shark of them all. Photograph by Mattias Klum, Nat Geo Image Collection, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/fish/b/bull-shark.html. Of the hundreds of shark species, there are three most often responsible for unprovoked shark attacks on humans: white, tiger, and bull sharks. They fail to account for the comparatively fewer numbers of people who actually use the water, and the fewer still who swim in water inhabited by dangerous sharks. I used to think sharks were cool, but now I am terrified of them, although I still [have] respect for them.”. Bull sharks inhabited estuarine areas, Mr Johnson said, which raised the possibility of interactions with humans, making them dangerous. Although these sharks are extremely dangerous, their population is very low, and they’re usually hunted for their flesh, skin, and other body parts that humans find quite beneficial. “Many of them never fully recover and the psychological scars can be even greater than the physical ones,” he says. “A great white in full predatory mode is quite a sight,” says Greg Skomal, a marine biologist with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries who has been tagging and tracking great white sharks since 2009. Bull sharks are part of the Big 3 (Great Whites, Tigers and Bulls), that are responsible for the majority of attacks on humans. Scientists have also been testing an electromagnetic barrier as an alternative to shark nets. “If you are frightened, you can always stay out of the water.”. But she still has the occasional nightmare about sharks. Although there have been few reports of human interactions in fresh water. Historically, they are joined by their more famous cousins, great whites and tiger sharks, as the three species most likely to attack humans. Some mature adults will venture out into the open ocean for months at a time, covering tens of thousands of miles and diving to depths of 1,000m as they seek prey. Still, sharks have more to fear from humans than we do of them. The personal effect of her attack, however, has been long lasting. A similar story is unfolding in Reunion where the local authorities have banned surfing and swimming in the water at certain times of the year due to fears about further shark attacks. Traditionally, some authorities have used shark nets to protect areas used by swimmers, but these are controversial due to the harm they do to other wildlife. The area has suffered a spate of attacks, including two fatal ones on surfers in 2015. Those who survive often lose limbs. This has led to increased numbers of great whites in the area too during the warm summer months as they look to feast on the seals that pull themselves out to bask on the beaches. It is known for its aggressive nature, and presence in warm, shallow brackish and freshwater systems including estuaries and rivers. The bull shark is the best known of 43 species of elasmobranch in 10 genera and four families to have been reported in fresh water. The water around Mighall exploded as a five-metre-long great white shark latched onto her right leg, lifted her off the surfboard and shook her in the air before disappearing underwater. I ended up seeing a psychiatrist to help me get over this.”. Still, there is good money to be made by hunting these sharks so many people do take that risk of being bitten. Naylor believes that in most cases, sharks bites are a case of mistaken identity. Most reports come from highly developed countries with large populations and highly active news media. We must have done it thousands of times. I think if people knew how frequently they were in water with sharks, they would probably be surprised.”. Still, of the more than 375 species in the world only about 30 have ever been reported to even have attacked humans. They are only behind the Great White Shark and the Tiger Shark. “Shark attacks cause a lot of personal loss, but the impact they can have on the wider community is often not considered,” says Dave Pearson, one of the founders of Bite Club, which offers support to the survivors of shark attacks. But why? What I do have is some first hand knowledge of how some of the shark species implicated in attacks on humans behave and how that behavior might determine why sharks attack. If you liked this story, sign up for the weekly bbc.com features newsletter, called “The Essential List”. Another approach being tested in Cape Town, South Africa, is an electromagnetic cable that aims to discourage sharks from approaching areas used by swimmers. Yet great whites – the species depicted in the film Jaws and demonised by Hollywood ever since – isn’t just a separate species, but an entirely different taxonomic order from the other two. The focus on the risks that sharks pose to us also diverts attention from the far greater threat we pose to their survival due to over fishing and human-induced climate change. "By number of attacks they are often rated as the third most dangerous in the world. This ocean dweller is also highly adaptable to environmental conditions. It is a figure that has remained around the same level over the past decade. If sharks aren't interested in eating humans, why do they attack us? If a shark sees a human splashing in the water, it may try to investigate, leading to an accidental attack. I have been diving with and observing Great White Sharks for over 17 years at Guadalupe Island and been around Bull- , Tiger - and Hammerhead Sharks for more than 6. They are gray on top and white below, and the fins have dark tips, particularly on young bull sharks. Most shark attacks involving sea disasters, e.g. For those who fear them without having had such a close encounter she has a sound piece of advice. Bull Sharks . Sadly, last autumn, Massachusetts suffered its first fatal shark attack in 82 years and growing numbers of shark sightings have led to a string of beach closures. Forensic analysis of shark bite patterns is helping to reveal more about the species responsible for attacks and the reasons why they happen (Credit: Alamy). However, while there are over 360 species of shark, only 4 have been known to attack a human unprovoked. The crystal-clear water beneath 13-year-old Hannah Mighall darkened for a moment. They are found cruising the shallow, warm waters of all the worldâs oceans. He should know – last year, as he was leaning over the pulpit on the bow of a research vessel while trying to tag a shark, a large great white breached directly underneath him with its jaws agape. The Bull Shark is known to eat almost anything. Bull sharks are fished widely for their meat, hides, and oils, and their numbers are likely shrinking. White sharks are known to have ‘tasted’ a variety of animals and objects, including seabirds, kayaks, boats, plastic bags, and … This list won't include the biggest shark, the whale shark, which eats by filtering little pieces of plankton out of the water and is thus uninterested in humans. Bull sharks inhabited estuarine areas, Mr Johnson said, which raised the possibility of interactions with humans, making them dangerous. Chapman believes that heavy commercial port construction in the area damaged large areas of reef and mangrove, potentially displacing species like bull sharks, which moved to new areas like Recife in search of prey. Behind them the brilliant-white sandy beach was largely deserted and the surfing had been good so far. The real reasons why sharks attack humans. To those who witnessed what happened, however, it was anything but gentle. Some skates (Rajidae), smooth dogfishes (Triakidae), and sandbar sharks (Carcharhinus plumbeus) regularly enter estuaries. Since 2011, there have been 11 fatal attacks on Reunion, mainly on surfers. Only a few species of shark are dangerous to humans. The eastern US and southern Australia have seen shark attack rates almost double in the past 20 years, while Hawaii has also seen a sharp increase. Just four of these were fatal according to the International Shark Attack File, although another database of shark attacks records seven deaths. Wearing dark clothing and avoiding wearing jewellery can also help to reduce the chance of attracting a shark’s attention in the first place. Great whites in the North Atlantic, for example, show seasonal movement patterns, migrating thousands of miles to warmer waters further south during the winter months. She was sitting astride her surfboard, enjoying the warmth of the sun as she and her cousin waited for the next wave in Tasmania’s idyllic Bay of Fires. (Read more about whether technology could reduce shark attacks). There are dozens of different species responsible for bites, each with their own unique behaviour, hunting strategies, prey and preferred habitat – although in many cases the species can be misidentified or not identified at all. Can technology save you from a shark attack, unprovoked attacks between 2013-2017, for example, was 84, increased numbers of great whites in the area too, warmer waters further south during the winter months, venture out into the open ocean for months at a time, there were just 66 confirmed, unprovoked attacks, database of shark attacks records seven deaths, sharp decline in the number of black-tipped sharks, dozens of different species responsible for bites, complex set of reasons for why unprovoked attacks on humans, potentially displacing species like bull sharks, turbid water and swells of more than two metres, a large great white breached directly underneath him with its jaws agape, swam alongside an enormous 20-feet-long great white, video footage of attacks and comparing these to injuries, successful hunters at night when there is a full moon, 0.08 attacks per million while in Australia they rose to 0.8 attacks per million people, far greater threat we pose to their survival due to over fishing, advise punching a biting shark in the gills, Read more about whether technology could reduce shark attacks, are now being trialled at several beach locations, electromagnetic cable that aims to discourage sharks, electromagnetic barrier as an alternative to shark nets, help to reduce the chance of attracting a shark’s attention, video made using Lego by Naylor's children. In fact, this species appears responsible for the majority of shark attacks worldwide. But despite being potentially such an easy meal, sharks are really not that interested in hunting humans. They have been known to bite horses that are in the water getting a drink. These three species are dangerous largely because of their size and tremendous bite power. Since bull sharks often dwell in very shallow waters, are found in many types of habitats, are territorial by nature, and have virtually no tolerance for provocation, they may be more dangerous to humans than any other species of shark, and along with the tiger shark and great white shark, are among the three shark “The fear spreads really quickly.”, A spate of shark attacks on Reunion Island led to calls for the local authorities to take action beyond bans on swimming and surfing (Credit: Getty Images). The Bull Shark is used for hides, a source of meat i… Two days before the attack a 1.4m bull shark was sighted 2m offshore near Optus Stadium. “It didn’t hurt at first, it was like something gently grabbed hold of me and then I was in the water,” says Mighall. The resurgence in seal populations on Cape Cod on the east coast of the US has led to rising numbers of great white sharks in areas popular with people (Credit: Getty Images). Chapman believes there may be a complex set of reasons for why unprovoked attacks on humans appear to have risen in recent decades. People who have never seen a shark before fear them because we hear or watch stories about them.”. Take Ocean Ramsey for example, who swam alongside an enormous 20-feet-long great white off the coast of Hawaii and made headlines around the world. Data from shark spotters in South Africa have shown that great whites are more active near the surface, and so more likely to be seen, when water temperatures are above 14C, during a new moon and in the afternoon. - Wearing dark clothing like a black wetsuit when diving can also help to reduce the chance of attracting a shark’s attention. They are medium-size sharks, with thick, stout bodies and long pectoral fins. Great white sharks are considered to be the most dangerous species in the oceans today, but we still know very little about their life cycle and behaviour (Credit: Getty Images), “There are 530 different species of shark and there is so much diversity among them. “I started getting dreams and would wake up screaming at night. A pair of orcas were filmed apparently hunting a great white shark off the coast of South Africa. Humans hunt sharks for their meat, internal organs, skin, and fins in order to make products such as shark fin soup, lubricants, and leather. He hopes it might help to answer questions about the behaviour of these animals as well as about where and how they breed. It is like they are in a heightened predatory state where their senses lock onto any kind of stimuli. “After my attack, lots of my friends didn’t go back into the water for a long time,” he says. Even greater than the physical ones, ” she says the first clue comes in the surf bull... Characteristics, many experts consider bull sharks have also been known to reduce the chance of a... Are large, aggressive and have a mouth full of sharp serrated teeth, turtles, birds, and venture! Como beach on January 29, 2018 the fibreglass and foam her shark posters have,! Previous years to do bull sharks attack humans to fear them without having had such a close encounter she a! As there is a full moon “ fear has played a very important role our... Between 2013-2017, for example, have declined by between 75-92 % dog is the tiger.. 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