Passes, Bumps, Bites & Strikes

Here is information on the behavior of sharks implicated in unprovoked attacks on divers. For further information, see the Worldwide Shark Attack Summary.

Number of Close Passes Sharks Made Prior to Attacks

Of 67 cases (N=67)

Last updated: March 30, 2011

Number of Discrete Bites Sharks Inflicted on Divers During Attacks

The majority of attacking sharks will strike a diver only once, as many victims flee or fight against their attackers, or the shark will determine the diver is not suitable prey with an "exploratory" bite or bump. A shark does not necessarily need to bite a diver for the encounter to be considered an unprovoked attack. Such cases can include bumps or biting equipment without harming the diver.

Of 132 cases (N-132)

Last updated: March 28, 2013

Nature of Sharks' First Strike During Attacks on Divers

A large percentage of the attacks were by sharks that attacked suddenly and violently. This is the most efficient strategy a shark uses when hunting prey. Shark attacks usually occur because a shark has mistaken a human for prey. The sharks that attacked more passively might have been "testing" the human to see whether or not the human is prey.

Of 136 cases (N=136)

Last updated: March 28, 2013

Direction from Which Sharks Attack Divers

The above data indicate the direction from which the shark initially attacked. A shark will come at a diver from pretty much any direction, but it is very rare that a shark will attack from above. Its physiology does not allow it to bend in such ways that makes an attack effective from above. Attacking from above would also subject a vulnerable part of its body, its belly, to counterattack.

Of 71 cases (N=71)

Last updated: March 28, 2013

Shark Behavior Prior to Attack on Divers

An overwhelming majority of the divers did not see the attacking shark. When diving, be careful not to assume that there are no sharks in the area just because you can not see any swimming around.

Of 115 cases (N=115)

Last updated: March 28, 2013

Shark Behavior After Initial Strike on Diver

The greatest majority of sharks that strike again, make deliberate repeated strikes. Not many sharks will in fact make a second, third, or fourth subsequent attack. If the shark is striking again, it has most likely decided that the diver is good enough to prey on and will do what it can to kill the diver before it eats him. This strategy is also seen when sharks attack other prey.

Of 119 cases (N=119)

Last updated: March 28, 2013

Shark Behavior After Final Strike on Diver

As the data above indicate, after a shark attacks, most of the time sharks will leave the scene of the attack, or are not seen again, which suggests that it has left the scene of the attack.

Of 109 cases (N=109)

Last updated: March 28, 2013

© International Shark Attack File
Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida