Shark Bites: It's a Case of Mistaken Identity

Aug 7, 2014

A great white shark named Katharine has been visiting the Wilmington region for the past week. WHQR dives into the behaviors and risks of sharks in the area. 

The chance of a shark biting a human is one in twelve million, and only two percent of those bites are fatal. This is according to Dr. Lankford, an Associate Professor of Biology and Marine Biology at UNCW. He prefers the term “shark bite” to “shark attack,” as most sharks retreat after mistaking a human for prey:  

"I think mistaken identity would explain many of the so-called “shark attacks” on humans. I think also that sharks rely on biting as a means of assessing the palatability of a potential prey item. It’s unfortunate that the human form cannot always withstand the sampling process that a shark uses when deciding whether or not it wants to attack you."

Dr. Lankford offers some tips to avoid such a shark sampling. Swim in groups, so a shark doesn’t mistake you for a lone fish. And try to avoid going into the ocean around dawn and dusk, which is when they feed. He also advises against wearing high-contrast clothing or shiny metals when in the water. 

You can follow the movements of one hundred tagged sharks, including Katharine, using Ocearch's Shark Tracker: