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Jul 19, 2011

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drudown

@K

I have personally encountered more than 15 different White sharks off Guadalupe Island. Why is any person's "experience" with White sharks relevant to the Science of "why" these sharks attack and consume people? Either predatory motive is there, or it is not there. Pointing to instances of the latter to explain away the former is junk science. Unfounded speculation is not Science at all.

"As soon as any one belongs to a narrow creed in Science, every unprejudiced and true perception is gone." - Goethe

Neither ecotourist profiteers like Fallows/Rodney Fox, nor grant-seeking graduate students like WSM, nor TOPP participants like Sean Van Sommeran - not even the highly esteemed Dr. McCosker- can "testify" as to what a White shark was thinking when any shark attacks and totally/partially consumes a human being. All we have to analyze is (1) the data in the factual record (e.g., was the manner of attack even similar to the ambush strike employed on pinnipeds; as noted above, youtube search "shark takes woman's leg" to analyze an actual attack) and (2) the Science of the pelagic shark's ecological niche. By way of strident example, Oceanic Whitetips occupy a generalist feeder, apex predator ecological niche in the resource-scarce open ocean. There is verily no "mistake" when they eat whatever edible prey they find and overpower. The "bump" they employ is likely to test whether or not the prey can defend itself. White sharks are also generalist feeders. They aren't these finicky, specialized pinniped predators many people condition the public to believe.

Conspicuously, any invocation of "mistaken identity" immediate runs afoul of the scientific method. It can't ever be proven. And yet, naerly every time a maritime disaster happens off South Africa or in Florida straits, pelagic sharks predicatably arrive and pick off human prey. I'm supposed to believe that "because they only chewed off a leg", it wasn't predation? I ate half my sandwich at a business lunch today, but it was just as much a meal to me as a human limb is to a shark.

If anything, "mistaken identity" blatantly disregards the White shark's finely tuned perceptive faculties (e.g., lateral lines, ampullae of lorenzini, sound, smell and, of course, taste). Surely no self-described "expert" on White sharks can credibly contend that known man-eating sharks cannot properly identify a known tertiary prey item (human being) with a primary prey item (pinniped) after "mouthing" and/or biting into our unmistakably soft frames. I have no doubt that all sharks- if not merely all of the known man-eating sharks- can readily identify our electro-magnetic and/or auditory cues and easily differentiate between them. To posulate otherwise would disregard Darwin's "experience" and understanding of Natural Selection (e.g., Natural Selection supports the retention of favorable traits and destroys those which are injurious to the species). What a remarkably injurious trait would "mistaken identity" be.

In short, Chris Fallows paddle boards with sharks < Darwin's "Origin of Species".

In other words, K, I'm not going to cast aside Darwin's experience and understanding of the natural world for someone whose "experience" seemingly entails hauling a seal cut out around the bay for the tourists' thrill and pecuniary profit that arises thereto. I'm really glad he found a great niche and supports shark conservation. But I'm not going to uncritically adopt faulty views because groupthink says so.

Instead of asking people like me to "study" the creatures more, you might implore someone you deem highly knowledgeable to explain the sociobiology of these creatures to me on this thread. It shouldn't take very long to write something off the top of their head. Maybe they can start by reconciling the counter-intuitive premise of an opportunistic, generalist feeder making a "mistake" by realizing a meal from a seafaring creature that has been sharing its ecosystem for at least 2.2mm years.

After all, there is physical evidence of Homo erectus rafting around and sharing the White/Tiger/Bull/Oceanic Whitetip shark's domain for at least that long. Unlike "mistaken identity", the Science of our own evolution and migrations out of Africa is proven- as is the fact that Bull sharks inhabited every major waterway that sustained the first major civilizations after the neolithic revolution- and many that nontheless suustained even earlier cultures (e.g., Zambezi. The "revised" understanding of sharks turns what Science already knows on its head. I see no good in this, K.

Based on the scientific data, I would even challenge the notion that the ocean is exclusively "the shark's" territory any more than rivers belong exclusively to fish and not to Tigers.

But that's just me.

Take care.

"We pay/ a high price for being intelligent. The truth hurts." - Euripides (413 B.C.)

K

Well until you people encounter a great white in person his experience surpasses yours. I, like Chris, believe that they are not man eaters, but instead have attacked based on mistaken identity. You get some panicked "seafaring primate" out in the ocean, which is the great white's territory might I add, you can't really expect them to be able to identify the difference between the human and their typical prey. Be smart, stay calm, and maybe study the creatures a little and you have much less to fear. In the end stay out of their territory if you aren't prepared for an encounter.

drudown

So to speak.

Noble.deeds.are.most.estimable.when.hidden

Chris Fallows has made a good living off the White shark and I enjoy watching some of the footage he has captured over the years.

But spare us the notion that any of the alleged watersports in close proximity to White sharks "proves" anything Fallows claims. There is absolutely no scientific basis that a finely tuned, generalist feeder, apex predator has ever preyed upon a human being by "mistake"- particularly when the actual data shows that White shark attacks on humans are nothing at all like the ambush attacks on pinnipeds. Tell me, why have no biologists "theorized" that the man-eating leopard recently killed in India "mistakenly" attacked and consumed humans? Because it is so absurd that it doesn't even merit consideration.

By analogy, it is equally asinine to "theorize" that a White shark can't differentiate between an agile, fat rich seal and a scrawny, seafaring primate.

Like any other man-eating predator, White sharks prey on humans on account of metabolic need. If I wanted to learn about shark behavior, I would youtube search "shark takes woman's leg". I don't see what watching Fallows on a stand-up surfboard will add to Science.

Like Rodney Fox, Chris Fallows is just "protecting" his cash cow.

Tell me, if someone tags sharks in the wild, or trails fake seals around Dyer Island for tourists to watch them breach- they have some "special insight" to why sharks attack us, as if, in the end, the survivors of the USS Indianapolis don't already know? At some level, shark "experts" should be speaking directly to the predatory behavior of White sharks, i.e., as opposed to merely conditioning the public to see a known man-eating species as something other than just that. One can support conservation and still dispassionately acknowledge that White sharks have man-eating propensities.

If White sharks (or Tiger/Oceanic Whitetips/Bulls) weren't man-eaters, people wouldn't be found in their stomachs. Not just this year, but always. Abalone divers wouldn't be eaten by them. These sharks wouldn't congregate at maritime disasters to remove the hapless prey pursuant to their ecological niche.

But that underscores how a "pro-conservation" agenda has undermined the integrity of shark sociobiology. Year after year, the same behavior is observed. A handful of sharks attack have occasion to prey on humans. It's rare, but no "made for tv" gimmick or seemingly "docile" behavior observed under baited conditions (read: conditioned response) can ever "undo" or "disprove" what works and is in the world we live in.

Ah, me.

One unable to swim in reality blames the instability of the sea.

paul

he's an idiot. comparing the behaviour of an expert, to a laymen splashing around in water, with no clue there's a white shark underneath them.

Shark Diver

Must say I have been a big fan of Chris fallows for a very long time, he's an innovator and a genuinely nice guy.

SDVeloSocial

So he will probably end up like the bear guy that thought he had built a relationship with another top predator.

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