Shark attacks on humans ‘down to them mistaking us for seals’, study claims

Sharks may be attacking humans by mistake after new research suggests their bad eyesight makes them believe they see a seal.

The study revealed that the colour-blind predators cannot tell the difference between seals and surfers.

Carried out by researchers at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia this is the first time testing was carried out from a shark eyes view.

Sharks often attack surfers once and give up, which given the research may mean they realise their mistake.

"Surfers are the highest-risk group for fatal shark bites,'' said Dr Laura Ryan, a post-doctoral researcher in animal sensory systems at Macquarie University’s Neurobiology Lab.

"We found that surfers, swimmers and pinnipeds (seals and sea-lions) on the surface of the ocean will look the same to a white shark looking up from below, because these sharks can’t see fine details or colours."

Tests were done with the eyes of white sharks in mind, which include great white sharks, tiger sharks and bull sharks.

To do a test with 'shark-vision', Dr Ryan and her team had to film both seals and surfers from deep below them.

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They attached a GoPro to an underwater scooter, which was set at the same speed as a shark.

Researchers believe it is actually the surfboards that cause the case of mistaken identity.

The board creates a silhouette of the body of a seal and arms and legs for flippers.

Dr Ryan said: "Smaller surfboards might pose a more tempting quarry than longboards or even stand-up paddleboards to white shark."

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Larger white sharks actually have better vision than juveniles which is why younger sharks are often the ones who attack.

Following their findings, scientists at the Neurobiology Lab are now working on non-invasive vision-based devices to potentially protect surfers and swimmers from shark bites.

Dry Ryan added: "Understanding why shark bites occur can help us find ways to prevent them, while keeping both humans and sharks safer."

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