There are over 400 known species of shark and most likely more that haven’t yet been discovered. They are some of the most feared creatures on this planet. But why are humans so scared of them? And what is it about sharks that make them stand out from other deadly predators?
I believe one of the most obvious reasons is a sharks appearance. They have rows of razor-sharp serrated teeth, a massive jaw, small eyes, a pointed fin and generally just look pretty inhuman. The fact that they look very different to us, scares people as it alienates them and makes them less understandable – humans always fear things they can’t comprehend! ( Which could be a good thing. )
The sharks sharp teeth are scary because they remind us of things that cause us pain, like knives or nails. Perhaps we also have some inbuilt instinct that tells us to stay away from things with dagger lined mouths.
Its massive jaw allows the shark to open its mouth extremely wide, creating an image in our heads of being swallowed whole and never seeing the light of day again.
The small eyes positioned either side of the sharks nose, further alienate this dreaded beast and makes them seem nothing like the adorable pets we are drawn to.
Often when we think of sharks, we picture the pointed fin it has peeking up above the surface, hinting at the ominous creature lurking below. The fact that you can only see a small part of the shark adds to the fear of the unknown.
All of these features combined create the image of a pretty dangerous animal – no wonder people are so scared of them!
A second reason for peoples sheer terror of sharks, is the way they are portrayed in the media. When have you ever heard a feel-good news story about sharks? I’m betting never! Here are some of the headlines I’ve found purely from 2020 that make your spine shiver:
“Man, 23, dies after shark attack near great barrier reef” – Evening Standard
“Corpse of promising footballer found being eaten by three great white sharks during hunt for another missing diver” – The Sun
“Beaches close after shark attack near Capitola” – The Mercury News
I don’t think many people would be in hurry to swim with sharks after reading those articles.
Jaws. Probably the most famous shark movie in existence. This film is about a shark that terrorises a beach community, it is directed by Steven Spielberg and the soundtrack was written by John Williams.
When released, this film resulted in many people developing a fear of sharks they may not have had before, because the image of a shark that just goes around killing people, although unrealistic, is petrifying.
Besides, Jaws is not the only shark movie out there – there are actually over 180! So if you didn’t develop a fear of sharks from watching Jaws, there are plenty of other films out there which could help you do so. In the majority of these motion pictures, the shark is portrayed as the evil, scary monster in the sea, increasing peoples fear of them.
People are at their most malleable when they are young. They can be influenced and brainwashed by the smallest of things. So maybe, it’s what they were told as children that made them picture sharks as dangerous, evil, scary things.
In a kids book called “Hooray for Fish” written by Lucy Cousins there is a picture of a shark captioned “scary fish”. By telling kids that sharks are scary from a young age we are drilling into their heads this image of a terrifying creature.
In a different children’s book, called “Guess Who Ocean Friends” written by Jodie Shepard, kids are told that sharks have “sharp teeth” and that they “better watch out”. This implies that sharks are dangerous and that they are creatures we should be scared of, when in actual fact they aren’t that bad.
Finally, the way that sharks move. They glide stealthily and silently around the ocean, giving them a mysterious and dangerous aurora, and making them seem like a big cat sneaking up behind its prey before the pounce.
The thing that everybody thinks of when they hear ‘shark movement’ is a group of sharks circling around fishing boats. This is scary because not only is it intimidating, but it also has a hypnotising effect.
Now although sharks seem really scary, they don’t tend to hunt humans and shark attacks are in fact rarer than you might think. On average there is only one fatal shark attack every 2 years in the USA and for every 1 human killed by a shark, approximately 25 million sharks are killed by humans. I mean, did you know that deer, cows, horses, bees and ants, are all at least 5 times more likely to kill you than sharks.