I need to make a confession: I saw Jaws for the first time earlier this year. I know, I know — I need to get my movie-loving life together. But, hey, if you've also put off watching this shark-infested classic, here's me telling you that you need to watch it. Like, this weekend. Do it now. It's officially my summer movie, and it's gotten me totally psyched for the upcoming thriller The Shallows, where a big, ol' great white chases Blake Lively as she tries to get on her surfboard and back to shore. While the film's woman-vs.-shark narrative sounds like a fitting metaphor for my experiences in grad school, it's one that it is also rooted in reality. Sharks do stalk their prey out in the wild, making Jaws and The Shallows an all-too-real feeding frenzy.
As a Chicago resident, I live on the "third coast," the shores of Lake Michigan, where there are no sharks (thank goodness). But, that doesn't mean that the animals' feeding patterns don't freak me out. There's been a ton of research on how these fanged fishies find and capture their prey, and it's just as scary as I thought it would be. Here's a quick lesson on how sharks go about stalking their prey, just in time for The Shallows.
Sharks don't just circle their prey for funzies, according to The Huffington Post. Because their beady, little eyes are so bad at detecting food, they wind up doing a few turns around their dinner to get a grip on what they've found. They're usually on the prowl for fat-filled creatures like seals, but occasionally, they mistake divers or surfers for the blubbery beasts. Folks over at the Shark Research Committee have looked into the behaviors of sharks and continue to conduct experiments that explain these patterns. They've found that sharks strike humans and then back off once they realize they're not chewing on a seal 66% of the time. Blood loss usually winds up killing humans involved in a shark attack, which is super gory and tragic in its own right.
But, ultimately, it's not a fair fight. The Discovery Channel reports that while sharks kill about 10 humans per year, humans kill between 20 and 30 million sharks per year. So, yeah, sharks have some gnarly predatory patterns, but we totally do, too. If The Shallows piques your interest in the animal, be sure to check out one of the numerous organizations advocating for ecological coexistence between humans and sharks.
Images: Columbia Pictures; Giphy (2)