Top five shark facts from a UF shark expert

Sharks have been a buzzworthy topic for centuries, with the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week migrating to social media in recent years and energizing an explosion of renewed interest.  While it may seem there are more shark sightings — and shark attacks — than usual, a University of Florida shark expert says that’s a misleading perception.

“Shark reporting has increased, which leads to pseudo replication,” said Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History. “People have better access to electronic devices to capture shark sightings than ever before along with more social media sharing.”

According to the UF’s International Shark Attack File, the number of unprovoked shark attacks worldwide decreased last year, tying with 2020 for the fewest number of reported incidents in the last 10 years. There were a total of 57 unprovoked bites in 2022, most of which occurred in the United States and Australia. Florida again had more reported bites than anywhere else on Earth.

“Sharks should be items of wonder and not fear,” said Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History. “They are magnificent animals.”

Naylor’s top five shark facts:

  • This year is no different than any other in terms of shark bites, the world is on track to have a “normal” number of shark bites.
  • 60% of shark bites take place in areas with low visibility. Sharks don't target humans, so nearly every bite is due to mistaken identity. Like us, sharks can't see very well in murky water.
  • There are more than 530 different species of sharks. Some lay eggs. Others give birth to live young. There are even some shark species that nourish their young by placenta, like humans do.
  • Some species of sharks have the capacity for trans-oceanic travel but return to the same locations each time they give birth. In this sense they are like turtles.
  • Sharks have existed for 400 million years, yet they have unusually low mutation rates relative to other vertebrate animals.

To learn more shark facts, visit the International Shark Attack File, or ISAF, which is the world's only scientifically verified database of all known shark attacks, covering the period from the early 1500s to the present. The File provides an abundance of data and resources for those interested in understanding shark attack trends, the odds of being attacked by a shark, and how to reduce your risk.

Brittany Sylvestri July 25, 2023