We're often confronted by reports of vicious shark attacks, deepening a long-held fear of one of the most tenacious species in the history of our planet. But to what degree are sharks truly a danger to humans? The Naked Science documentary series goes fishing for answers in Shark Attacks. While definitive conclusions remain somewhat elusive, viewers are treated to a fascinating overview of the eating habits and predatory practices of these misunderstood creatures of the deep.
"There are more than 400 living kinds of sharks in the world," reports California Academy of Sciences ichthyologist John McCosker early in the film. "Thirty of those have been involved in unprovoked attacks on human beings. Actually, only about 7% of attacks result in fatalities." The standard mode of attack for sharks is to cripple prey once with a single bite, and then wait until their victim bleeds out and dies before consuming them. Except on rare occasions, this routine does not seem to apply to humans. Sharks don't typically regard humans as a source of food, and don't appear to have any interest in eating us.
The film explores the three types of sharks who are most commonly associated with attacks on humans: tiger sharks, bull sharks and, the most prominent and fearsome of all, the Great White.
One of the most famous examples of a shark attack involved professional surfer Bethany Hamilton, whose story is featured in the documentary. She lost her left arm to a tiger shark in 2003, but her attacker seemed to have little interest in returning to her once this wound was inflicted. As communicated in the film, tiger sharks are known as the garbage disposal of the ocean, as they will consume nearly any object they come in contact with. This indiscriminate feeding frenzy may help to explain what instigated Hamilton's attack, but investigators cannot be certain.
Why are incidents of shark attacks on humans increasing with every passing decade? At this point, researchers can only speculate as to the reasons. The most likely explanation may be a simple matter of odds; more people are swimming in waters that are populated by the predatory beasts. There is still much we have to learn about sharks, and their mysteries are as vast and as deep as the oceans that shelter them.