Friday 3 April 2015

Misunderstood Sharks

Got back from the GA conference of Unitarians, which was great. I'm considering starting a Unitarian-only blog, just for my posts about Unitarianism, and keeping this one for posts about cycling, diving and random diversions. Luckily, I will soon resume diving, so this blog will get a shitload more interesting.

The GA did provide proof that I can talk about diving anywhere, as I found a fellow Unitarian from Southampton who happens to be a marine biology student. She and I explained to a rapt audience (well, one that was eating its dinner and couldn't escape) that actually, divers love sharks, and they rarely attack humans (sharks, that is, not divers). There are only four species of shark that will regularly attack humans: tiger sharks, oceanic whitetips, bull sharks, and great whites. This is for the same reason that humans don't try to attack elephants; predators don't tend to prey on anything bigger than them unless they're hunting in packs. These four species are the only ones big enough to view something the size of a human as dinner. Humans also bear an unfortunate resemblance to the sharks' favourite prey, seals and turtles. The shark way of investigating anything is "take a bite, see if you like the taste". This is bugger-all consolation, I imagine, if a shark bites your arm off, spits it out, and you're swimming around trying to find your arm and stick it back on.

Although speaking of hunting in packs, there actually is a creature that does this; the Humboldt squid, nicknamed the "sea wolf" or the "red devil". This article gives an excellent recap of why they are scary, scary, creatures. If they lived longer than two years humans would have competition in the "top species" stakes.

I have swum with sharks, and they really are quite beautiful creatures, albeit not very smart. I hope someday to swim with the native British shark, the basking shark. The second-largest fish in the world (whale sharks are bigger), and a peaceful vegetarian. If you're going to swim with something 8m long weighing 20 tons, do not resemble dinner.

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