It is well known that sharks have superior senses. Research of late has discovered that this includes their vision – and they do in fact have high visual capabilities. Sharks have been found to detect surface prey visually (Strong, 1996) having high visual capabilities (Gruber & Cohen, 1985).
Sharks are ambush predators, relying heavily on the element of surprise to capture prey (Strong, 1996). Sharks employ predatory tactics which involve a risk assessment before attacking it’s prey (Lima & Dill, 1989). “Shark Eyes” aims to alter the sharks initial risk assessment thereby altering its “strike” behaviour to an “abort” behaviour (Martin et al., 2005).
Shark Eyes is unlike any of the sharks natural prey and is designed to mimic that of a human eye. Hours of Research has gone into designing a set of eyes that we know sharks can see. Science is unsure as to whether sharks can see colour or not though many scientists believe they can, they do know they can see contrast. Shark Eyes – the design of the eye – achieves depth of field through contrast.
Great White Shark checking out the photographer Phillip Thurston
When the element of surprise is gone, sharks often abandon their attack.
Sharks are ambush predators just like lions and Tigers. Like most land apex predators, shark predation relies heavily on the element of surprise. We know and have witnessed sharks change their behaviour and become more cautious once eye contact has been made.
Shark Eyes is designed to mimic human eye contact, making the shark feel like it has been spotted, taking away their element of surprise. This has the potential to change the behaviour of the shark and prevent an attack.
Marc Payne (Ambassador) staring at a Great White taking away the element of surprise
Shark Eyes is simply copying what nature is already doing.
Mimicry is scientifically proven as a successful defence mechanism seen often in nature. Land and water animals are known to adapt to mimic large false eyes mostly on their rears to fend off predators. Mimicry is seen in birds, butterflies, moths, cats, caterpillars, fish and more.
Humans have successfully used mimicry as a line of defence in India. Face masks were applied to the back of the locals heads to protect them from tigers. Before face masks were introduced the fatality rate was 60 deaths a year. After the introduction of the face masks no fatalities were recorded.
Mimicry is seen in fish to defend from larger predators & humans using mimicry to defend against tiger attacks.
The threat of shark attack is slowly eating away at our carefree attitude as shark encounters and attacks are increasing in Australian waters. This is affecting our enjoyment in the ocean.
The intention of the Shark Eyes visual deterrent and the additional information booklet is to offer you practical information, make you feel safer and more confident in the water and importantly minimise your risk of an unwanted encounter or attack.
Sharks are visual predators that predominately use the element of surprise when attacking (Strong,1996), usually attacking from behind and beneath its prey (Tricas and McCosker 1984). Strong(1996) found sharks were initially attracted to their prey with sense of smell but appeared to use vision the closer it approached. A shark’s vision is well developed and more elaborate than most fishes (Gilbert, 1963), having duplex retinas containing both rod and cone photoreceptors (Gruber & Cohen, 1985) indicating they have high visual capabilities and ability to see colour.
When predating, sharks undertake a risk assessment before attacking its prey (Lima and Dill, 1989; Martin et al., 2005) and it’s at this point where “Shark eyes” is designed to assist watermen.
“Shark Eyes” is intended to signal the approaching predator that it has been detected, effectively saying “I’ve seen you” and thereby altering the shark’s predatory behaviour. “Shark eyes” therefore aims to alter the sharks risk assessment and deter the shark from attacking. By taking away the element of surprise, the shark has a reduced chance of successfully capturing its prey. For example, an adult white shark is usually not agile enough to capture a fleeing, darting seal hence it generally attacks its prey by surprise (Tricas and McCosker, 1984). Similarly, Strong (1996) observed in numerous occasions that fur seals and sea lions easily avoided white sharks, suggesting that once the shark was visually detected, the change of capture of the seal prey drop considerably. Once a shark sees the “Shark eyes” and realises it has been detected, it may now be optimal for the shark to abandon its attack.
As described by Martin et al., (2005) the stages of predatory behaviour by a white shark involves a “Gather Info” stage before deciding to “Strike” or “Abort” an attack. It’s at this “Gather Info” stage that “Shark Eyes” aims to influence the sharks risk assessment, altering the shark’s behaviour to “Abort”.
Figure 1. (Above) Hypothesized decision tree of predatory tactics by white sharks on surface borne Cape fur seals at Seal Island, South Africa. Modified from Martin et al., (2005). Additionally, the concept that “eyespots” used in mimicry (or finspots in fish) can reduce the risk of a predatory attack is well supported (Blest 1957, Vallin et al., 2005) and further complements the theory to “Shark Eyes”.
Blest, A.D. (1957) The function of eyespot patterns in the lepidoptera. Behaviour, 11, 209 – 256.
Gilbert, P.W. (1963) The visual apparatus. In: Sharks and survival. P.W Gilbert, ed. D.C. Heath and Co., Boston, pp. 283 – 326.
Lima, S.L., Dill, L.M. (1990) Behavioural decisions made under the risk of predation: a review asn prospectus. Can. J. Zool 68:619 – 640
Strong, W.R. (1996) Shape Discrimination and Visual Predatory Tactics in White Sharks. In: Klimley, A.P. & Ainley, D. (Eds.) Great White Sharks. The biology of Carcharodon carcharias : 229 – 240.
Tricas, T.C. and McCosker, J.E. (1984) Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences series 4 1984 43:221-238
Vallin, A., Jakobsson, S. Wicklund, C. (2005) Prey survival by predator intimidation: an experimental study of peacock butterfly defense against blue tits. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, 272, 1203 – 1207.