Why do sharks not bite divers who are right next to them?



Why do sharks not bite divers who are right next to them?

In: Biology

1. Not all sharks are super aggressive and people-eating like the movies say. They’re animals not hunters, they hunt for food, not for fun (usually)
2. Not hungry or you’re not appealing food
3. Already ate your dive partner and are no longer hungry
4. Some sharks only fully grow to a few inches or less though I assume you mean large sharks like great whites
5. They’re probably just checking you out to see if you’re a threat to them or not. If they don’t then they might just chill

Think of it like “why do humans not bite cows that are right next to them” You COULD, and it would be food, but it wouldn’t be worth it effort wise, it might fight back, and there’s plenty of easier food around you could catch.

I am by no means a shark expert and do not go hugging sharks because of this post

Like most predators, sharks will only attack if they’re hungry. Attacking something takes precious energy. If the sharks not hungry, and the diver isn’t a threat, there’s no good reason to waste energy attacking them.

Would you clean out your pantry just because it’s nearby?

You seek food when you’re hungry, you don’t when you’re not. A lot of animals are the same way.

Sharks aren’t mindless killers like in Jaws. Sharks won’t attack something for no reason. Humans aren’t familiar to sharks and are not part of their diets, so sharks are rarely interested in humans in the same way you probably wouldn’t east some mystery meal unless you were very hungry. Sharks also won’t expend energy unless they need to, so if the shark isn’t hungry, it won’t attack. Again, this is true of most predators. If you just ate dinner, would you go out of your way to find another meal?

The vast majority of shark attacks happen when the shark mistakes a person for their normal prey or when the shark is provoked by the person and becomes aggravated and defensive. Otherwise, sharks are almost always more afraid of us than we are of them. I’ve seen numerous sharks while diving and they almost always swim away or maintain a safe distance where they can keep an eye on us out of curiosity.

Sharks bite things for a few reasons.

1. They want to eat it. They don’t want to eat us. We’re not part of their natural environment.

2. They’re defending themselves.

3. They’re curious about something in their environment and want to see what it’s like (sharks don’t have hands so they see what something is like by biting it and seeing what they taste and smell).

Almost all shark attacks are number 3 which is why most shark attacks are just a little nibble and then the shark swims away. So a shark that sees divers from time to time probably isn’t curious about this non food thing that is swimming around them.

Sharks aren’t interested in eating humans. Most shark attacks are mistaken identity, sharks think the swimmer or surfer is a seal or sea lion.

So I used to work with sharks in an aquarium and at BBFS. A few things come to mind. -Many sharks are ambush predators. They don’t have the element of surprise if they’re already swimming with you.

-A lot of sharks I’ve swam with are skittish. At the aquarium they used to let little Jack fish steal their food all the time. In the ocean if you barely brushed them with a fin they would freak and swim away. At BBFS they told us juvenile sharks explore novel objects by using their teeth which is unfortunate if were the novel object.

-Fun fact: sharks have a fatty liver instead of a swim bladder. This allows them to change depth rapidly for ambush attacks as they don’t have a gas filled sac to equalize.

Do you bite all food that happen to be next to you? Especially if that food isn’t looking at all like what you are use to eat? Most people would just be curious about that weird food, but wouldn’t necessarily want to try it. Some people will be brave enough to take a bite, few would actually take a serving. And if you are already full, then forget it no matter what.

Shark are similar.

One thing to keep in mind (not sure if mentioned above) is that most sharks are fish eaters. Fish blood is copper based, whereas human blood is iron based; completely different smells. I’ve had my hands split during dives (excema) while not wearing gloves, and sharks don’t care. I’d be concerned around mammal feeding sharks, but not the rest.

Humans are relatively new creatures from the shark’s perspective. Sharks have been living on this planet (450 million years) for about 1500 times longer than humans have (300,000 years). Human’s appearance on the planet is but a tiny blip on the evolutionary timeline relative to other organisms.

Virtually all living things are concerned with only a few criteria: Can we survive in this surrounding environment? How difficult will that survival be in the longterm?

For the majority of a large shark’s existence, the answers to those questions have been “Yes” and “Not difficult at all” (until we arrived, of course)

To be more specific, a shark’s survival depends generally on how easy it can acquire food and how easy it can evade very particular circumstances that result in the shark either getting trapped to the point it cannot move, or being killed by the very few existing apex predators ABOVE sharks in the food chain (by us for example).

Survival is the absolute top priority to virtually all living things on the planet. That survival, from a large shark’s perspective, involves being very cautious when approached by other living things that are either new to them or appear to have a potential to cause harm to them. When that living thing approaching the shark is us humans, most sharks will likely behave like the previous statement. Sharks will only bite or attack humans if they are near death starving (not likely since they are an apex predator of the ocean) OR if their survival feels threatened by the human in that moment.

Us humans are most certainly not on a great white shark’s typical food menu like seals are. This assertion has many evidences for confirmation such as, surfers who are bitten very badly by a great white shark but still survive because the shark 1. Thought the surfer paddling on the board was a seal (a seal and a paddling surfer look almost identical from the perspective of the shark beneath) and 2. The shark swam away immediately when it realized it had bitten something that most certainly was not a seal.

The majority of other shark-human conflicts are going to be territorial. This again, however, has a direct relationship with the thought of being threatened.

One last bit of information worthy of note regarding great whites is that they rely on the smell of blood in the water to search for food. They have an incomprehensible sense for blood (in terms of blood to water ratio by volume). A great white shark will thus instinctually be activated (aggression-wise) at the smell of blood. Assuming that human divers are not cut or bleeding underwater when near a great white shark, the degree to which the shark becomes aggressive will be less.

They don’t usually eat human meat. Their natural diet would be fish. They probably don’t even like the taste.