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The Social Lives of Sharks

A group of Port Jackson sharks under kelp at their mating aggregation site in Jervis Bay, NSW. Credit: Johann Mourier

A group of Port Jackson sharks under kelp at their mating aggregation site in Jervis Bay, NSW. Credit: Johann Mourier

By Culum Brown

Tracking technology reveals that Port Jackson sharks have buddies of similar age and gender, and can navigate across Bass Strait to the same breeding grounds.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Sharks have an interesting place in our collective psyche. People have always feared sharks, but ever since Hollywood’s depiction of white sharks in the movie Jaws, our fear has been magnified.

Much of this fear is irrational, even in countries where white sharks do occasionally kill people. In Australia, only 47 people have been killed by sharks over the past 50 years, an average of 0.9 per year. Far more people are killed by horses (7.7 deaths per year), cows (3.3 deaths per year) and dogs (2.7 deaths per year). Kangaroos and bees are next on the list.

So, one might question why we are terrified of sharks when statistics clearly show that there are many animals that rank far above them in terms of real risk. Of course, all deaths by animals pale into insignificance when we compare them with motor vehicle statistics or homicide.

Part of the reason for this irrational fear of sharks stems from our fear of the unknown. Sharks are the rulers of the sea, an environment that is both unfamiliar and unknown to humans. Swimming at the surface with the dark inky depths bellow us, our imagination kicks into overdrive.

But again we need a reality check. The vast majority of the 1000 or so species live on the sea floor and don’t even have pointy teeth. If one bit you, you’d be lucky to get a nasty bruise. The irony is that we know very little about the...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.