What is it about?

The Mistaken Identity Hypothesis (MIH) interprets shark bites on surfers, swimmers and snorkelers as 'mistakes' stemming primarily from similarities in the visual appearance of ocean users and the sharks typical prey. This hypothesis has never really been demonstrated and the alternative hypothesis of exploration bites is much more likely.

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Why is it important?

If sharks were sensory incapable of differentiating between two prey as different as a seal and a human. this would mean that all sharks are a potential danger to humans. However, we believe that only a few sharks are actually potentially dangerous, for very specific behavioural reasons and not intrinsic anatomical caveats, and this does not imply any unjustified fear of sharks as is currently the case.


I believe it is important to focus on cognitive and behavioural mechanisms, in particular the personality traits of large sharks, in order to better understand the mechanisms behind predatory bites that can rarely, but tragically and overly publicised, affect humans.

Prof. Eric EG CLUA
COMUE Paris Sciences et Lettres

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The ‘Mistaken Identity Hypothesis’ for shark bites on humans is an anthropomorphic fallacy, Behaviour, February 2023, Brill,
DOI: 10.1163/1568539x-bja10196.
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