Thursday, July 2, 2009

It's OK, sharks: you're ruthless killing machines after all

If you were saddened by the post last week that dealt a blow to our metaphors involving sloths and pigs, this might make you feel better.

Sharks have a reputation as ruthless killing machines. But experts will gladly ruin the fun by telling you that this reputation is vastly exagerrated: that the majority of species are small and harmless, that many more sharks are killed by humans every year than vice-versa, blah blah shark-hugging blah.

But here's some good news. In a triumph of interdisciplinary research, a recent study not only confirms our stereotype, but gives it a new twist: it shows that great white sharks stalk their prey in the same way as human serial killers.

Research linking sharks and serial killers began when the late Canadian shark scientist R Aidan Martin read about geographic profiling, which tries to find criminals by looking for patterns in where they strike.

He contacted Rossmo, a pioneer in that field of investigation, and they applied the methods of tracking down criminals to researching shark strategy.

In the latest study, Martin and Hammerschlag watched sharks from sunrise to sunset, applied geographic profiling and found patterns of stalking, Hammerschlag said.

And who would know better than a veteran cop?

"They both have the same objective, which is to find a target or prey or victim," co-author D. Kim Rossmo, a professor of criminal justice at Texas State University-San Marcos, said.

"They have to lurk. They want to be efficient in their search," Rossmo, who was a police officer in Canada for more than 21 years, said.

Photo from Flickr user Harrymoon and thanks for the link to Sir Pilkington-Smythe's Twitter.


  1. HAHA! This was the best one so far. Between lurking sharks and "blah blah sharking-hugging blah" I think I'm awake and ready to keep my feet from dangling in the ocean water for a few more weeks...

    I was hoping it was going to reveal that sharks get a bad rap too, so I could start a "Pinups for Sharks" Calendar next:P

  2. Well, my old aquarium co-workers really did always claim that most species of sharks are perfectly harmless and innocent - there might be a market for that calendar idea...

  3. This is great!!!! I'm adding you to our blog ;)


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