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Sharks Can Sense When Your Back Is Turned

New research suggests that sharks can sense where you can’t see, and will approach just outside your field of vision

(Courtesy of Flickr user Marc AuMarc)

According to new research, if you encounter a shark , best not turn your back. Sharks can actually sense when you've turned your back on them, and they use that time to attack.

At least, that's the finding of a recent study published in Animal Cognition. The researchers got volunteer SCUBA divers to kneel on the sea floor. In some scenarios the diver was facing forward. In another scenario two divers were kneeling back to back, so there was no blind spot. (The sharks involved were Carribean reef sharks, so nobody was in any real danger.)

What they found was that when the sharks approached, they tended to swim just outside the divers field of vision. "The results suggest that sharks can identify human body orientation, but the mechanisms used and factors affecting the nearest distance of approach remain unclear," Science News reports.

Of course, sharks aren't likely to hunt you. Your chances of being attacked by a shark are astronomically small. This method of hunting is likely what sharks use for their actual prey. But the fact that they can sense what a potential food item can see, and what it can't, has researchers excited.

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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