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Mar 17, 2014


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The notion that pelagic sharks attack seafaring primates (i.e., Homo sapiens) out of "territorial response" is, in my estimation, a Sociobiological red herring.

As a threshold matter, pelagic sharks that are known to prey on humans (e.g., Oceanic Whitetips/Tiger/White/Bull sharks, et al.) are highly nomadic and, as such, do not exhibit territorial behavior.

This is true towards other sharks to the extent that an ordered hierarchy seems to be established at whale carrion feeding events in the open ocean and elephant seal kills in Northern California around the Farallon Islands.

As such, it seems more than speculative to impute a "territorial response" as an exculpatory theory under any circumstance outside, hmm, humans interfering with Bull shark breeding patterns (see, e.g., Recife shark attack patterns). To be sure, given their symbiotic adaptation along major waterways (e.g., Ganges river; Zambezi river; Amazon river, et al.) Bull shark may have the "closest thing" to a "territorial response" insofar that their "high testosterone, hyper-aggressive" attacking style is a behavioral adaptation to usurp scavenging opportunities (see, e.g., data from sport fisherman on YouTube having game fish taken by Bull sharks in much more "open and notorious" ways than, say, Mako or White sharks' scavenging behavior patterns). But this "aggressive behavior" observed at Bull shark attacks on humans (see, e.g., Daigle attack in FL) is not to be conflated with "territorial response" because the "cause" is a function of the metabolic needs of an apex predator that is, well, a generalist feeder.

Nor do pelagic sharks render any maternal care.

Accordingly, that is another material reason why "territorial response" theories are unfounded as an exculpatory device, i.e., generally human predation caused by legitimate instances of "territorial response" (e.g., a Brown Bear "defending its cub" or female Nile Crocodile "defending its clutch" from a perceived threat) have a strong correlation to maternal care.

Perhaps it natural for the species with the strongest sense of Kin Selection (i.e., Homo sapiens) to impute "reasons" for behavior that seems inapposite to our own makeup.

Given that there is a much more parsimonious reason for the Blacktip shark's aggressive behavior- that is, the stimulus of freshly speared/struggling fish- corroborates the invalidity of the territorial response theory.

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