NY Post spreads misinformation about great white shark vision

A recent article in the NY Post features one of the photographs discussed in yesterday’s post about Amos Nachoum’s photos from an illegal cage-less commercial dive at Isla de Guadalupe. The article, “Hi there, will you be my chum?” makes the absolutely baseless statement that “great whites are so short-sighted they can hardly spot what’s right in front of them.” While it was once thought that white sharks had poor vision (it was also once thought that the Earth was flat), research has shown that white sharks have a highly developed visual system. Perhaps, the article’s author, Andy Soltis, should give this article about white shark vision a read.

The eye of a male great white shark. Fear not. He can see you just fine.
The eye of a male great white shark. Fear not. He can see you just fine.

As far as the bit about a white shark hardly be able to spot what’s right in front of them, I’d suggest going for a white shark dive. Anybody who has been close enough to see the blue iris of a passing white shark can tell you that a great white shark will often “track” you with its eye movements as it swims by.
A female great white shark looks directly at the camera as she passes by.
A female great white shark looks directly at the camera as she passes by.

Granted, the whole theme of the article seems to be rather whimsical, in nature. However, the NY Post’s somewhat tabloid status, doesn’t excuse it from posting/printing completely unfounded “information.”

3 comments

  1. Sharky says:

    Misinformation –
    It would be nice to see you cover more areas of shark misinformation!

    One of course being the 100 million sharks killed for their fins. You know that statement is made in many papers and web sites. Doc Gruber made that statement in 1988 which included all elasmobranches, shark, skates, and rays. By the time it was published in the papers in 1990 they forgot to mention the rays and skates were included in the 100 million figures. When S. Clarke did a scientific study they came up 72 million elasmobranches which also included rays and skates, but the papers and web sites left out mentioning rays and skates again, and the 72 million magically became only sharks again.

    Another one being how many shark attacks and shark attack deaths there are each year. I’ll bring up just one for 2008 even though there was more “Brian Guest”! The Australian government coroner inquest says he was killed by a shark, the papers and shark researchers still say only 4 people were killed by sharks in 2008. Oh what about Markus Groth, by leaving his death out of the figures says people participating in shark eco-tourism or providing shark eco-tourism are provoking sharks to attack them.

    What about the comparisons we read about, like Oceania’s new one comparing toasters deaths and shark attack deaths. If you touch a shark and are killed it doesn’t count, but if you touch a toaster and are killed it does count.

    Sharky

  2. TheDorsalFin says:

    I believe the Shelley Clarke study hit the media in 2006. This blog wasn’t around at the time. Admittedly, the 100 million and the 73 million estimates do get thrown around a lot in the media even today, often times without any reference to where the numbers came from. I don’t have any firsthand knowledge of either of these studies and tend to avoid using either “estimate,” due to that reason. I was not aware that these numbers included skates and rays, and you would be correct in saying that by omitting that fact, the estimates could be construed as misleading. However, a review of the abstract of Clarke’s study makes no mention of skates and rays, and seems to indicate that the numbers were extrapolated from shark fin trade numbers. Do you have a solid number of the actual estimate of sharks killed by humans, annually, along with references to the where the number came from? I’d be more than willing to report these numbers. Thanks.

    I haven’t seen the 2008 ISAF stats mentioned in the press lately, but you are correct in that the Brian Guest and Markus Groh (not Groth) fatalities are not included in the ISAF’s “unprovoked” shark attack statistics. When you mentioned this in a previous comment, I went back through the the ISAF’s definition of “unprovoked,” and it would seem that Groh’s death did not fall under their definition of “unprovoked” (if I remember correctly, due to the fact that sharks were being fed at the site of the attack). I haven’t the slightest idea why Brian Guest’s attack is not listed.

    As far as toasters go, I’m not sure what constitutes provoking a toaster. I think the point of those kinds of comparisons is to give people an idea of just how statistically small the risk of a fatal shark attack is. Often times, the statistics just get ridiculous, such as comparing the likelihood of being killed by a falling coconut to the likelihood of being killed by a shark. The figure used in the toaster example is over 700. Incorporating attacks that the ISAF considers “provoked” into the comparison between shark attacks and toaster deaths would still have the same effect. I think people just rely on the ISAF statistics, because they are the only numbers readily available worldwide. The omission of “provoked” attacks does somewhat discredit the numbers when they are used in general terms, though.

  3. Anju says:

    There’s a lot of misinformation about sharks out there and it’s harder to fix it than it was to convince people that the world is not flat! 😀 Sad that it’s so in a day when we have so much information and ways to spread them.
    I love the photo showing the blue iris. It’s so beautiful!

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