Sharks: Their Misunderstood Diet

By Ashton Felts

I think everyone’s impression of sharks is a little jaded. After all, there are very few shark movies that are based solely on their daily routines and TRUE eating habits. Instead, movie directors and screenplay writers take the time to bend and twist the true identities and behaviors of sharks. In Jaws, for example, Spielberg creatively makes Bruce (the overly-large great white shark) a blood-thirsty monster hunting only human flesh. In a shark’s reality, humans are never on their menu. In fact, sharks don’t even ENJOY the taste, even when they accidentally attack a human. The purpose of this article is to inform the reader on what a shark’s real intentions are, and how they really hunt for food.

How Sharks Hunt

To begin, everyone should know how a shark attacks their food. Sharks hunt from the sea floor, where they are easily camouflaged by the dark gray colors of their skin. Once they spot and stalk their prey, they build speed and swim skyward to attack. Often, the shark breaks the surface because of their speed; this is called breaching. This tactic enables the shark to attack without being seen, catching their food source off-guard. Once their prey is captured, the shark rips it’s head back and forth, making for a quick death so their food can’t escape or fight back.

Why Sharks Attack Humans

When a shark attacks a human, it’s usually a case of mistaken identity. Humans and seals (usually a shark’s main food source) look strangely alike; most humans that sharks attack are on surfboards. In most cases, the shark quickly realizes that the human isn’t a seal, and leaves the scene. In other cases, the shark comes back for a second bite, out of curiosity.

This is the resemblance of a surfer and a seal, which can be easily confused by a shark.

A shark’s perspective of a surfer and a seal.

Sharks, like us, have five senses: smell, taste, hearing, touch, and sight. However, they also have a sixth sense, called the ampullae of Lorenzini. The ampullae of Lorenzini picks up vibrations and distress signals, otherwise called electrical fields. When a human splashes the water, it resembles the sounds made by injured fish. Sharks travel toward these sounds, and when the sharks identify the human as something that is not food, they become curious. This is the reasoning behind many shark attacks. After medical examination, an expert oftentimes interview the victim, where they are informed that the bite should have been much worse; sharks usually bite clean through their prey. On most accounts, the victim has the shark’s puncture wounds and sometimes tears from the shark ripping their heads back and forth (a technique used in hunting). You can tell when a shark bites out of curiosity; it doesn’t bite all the way through. There have been times, however, where victims aren’t so fortunate.

I have heard some people say that sharks attack humans because they are territorial animals. This is extremely untrue! Sharks are not pack animals – they hunt and live alone. While some species of sharks travel together, most only meet up with one another to mate. Otherwise, sharks roam all over the ocean, traveling miles and miles, never stopping in one place. Therefore, there is no way for sharks to be territorial.

There aren’t many reasons sharks attacks humans. Unless you’re in a highly populated area, shark attacks don’t happen very often at all. In fact, you’re more likely to be killed by a cow. Sharks are severely misunderstood, and it’s become one of my goals to spread awareness over these animals. They are not man-eating, blood-thirsty sharks. Sharks are majestic, beautiful creatures. The next time you watch a movie regarding sharks as monsters, please remember that they are wonderful and truly peaceful animals. They’d appreciate it!