Marine Biology

Bull Sharks

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One of the most dangerous sharks to human beings - the bull shark. This feisty and extremely aggressive fish is among the three sharks most likely to attack a human being in the shallows, the other two being the great white and the tiger shark. In fact, the bull shark can be credited with the most number of shark attacks in shallow waters worldwide because of their aggressive and territorial nature. The bull shark is known as an apex predator, which means it has no natural enemies aside from humans. Though it can be attacked by other larger sharks like the great white they are not a natural prey of any other species.

The bull shark is a unique creature, being one of very few sharks that can tolerate freshwater. While this is not their natural habitat, they have been known to swim up rivers, which probably accounts for their large number of attacks on humans. The bull shark is very stocky with a flat shaped nose, much like a bull. It's physical characteristics combined with its unpredictably aggressive nature give this shark its name. The bull shark makes its home off all warm coastal regions and has been known to travel large distances. While they have been known to swim to depths of up to 500 feet they are seldom found any deeper than 100 feet. They usually stay in the ocean, however bull sharks have been found as far up the Mississippi river as Illinois!

Bull sharks are not social animals. They travel alone and hunt alone. If they find an intruder in their territory they will viciously attack with quick bursts of speed. Among the four shark species that are considered dangerous to humans - the great white, the oceanic whitetip and the tiger shark - the bull shark is probably the most dangerous and certainly the most likely to attack. While great whites does not usually attack unless provoked, the bull shark will aggressively attack just by seeing anything in its territory. In fact a bull shark is suspected to be the culprit behind a series of vicious attacks off the Jersey Shore in 1916 that was the inspiration for the movie Jaws. Increasingly more shark attacks that were once blamed on other sharks are now being discovered to be bull shark attacks.

It's quite easy to say that if there are bull sharks swimming about you don't want to be getting into the water. They attack without discretion and eat whatever is in their path. If you see a sign posted on your favorite beach that says there are bull sharks out there - don't go in!

More about this author: Danielle Friedl

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