The real risk of being attacked by a shark: what the statistics say and the secret that could make us live longer

The real risk of being attacked by a shark: what the statistics say and the secret that could make us live longer

The shark, along with spiders and snakes, is probably the deepest of our fears of an animal . Nobody could get into the water knowing that there is a shark nearby (especially after watching the movie Jaws , by Steven Spielberg). However, things are not what they seem. At least on a statistical level.

Shark attacks are quite rare . In 2014, there were only three deaths worldwide related to shark attacks, and in 2015, there were six, which is roughly the annual average .

Aquarium G2694e45c4 640

To put this figure into perspective , wolves kill 10 people each year, lions 22, elephants 500, hippos 500 and crocodiles 1 000. Even freshwater snails outnumber sharks (and incidentally to all the animals mentioned), causing no less than between 20,000 and 200,000 victims .

The freshwater snail naturally does not kill you with a bite, but instead carries parasitic worms that infect people with a disease called schistosomiasis that can cause severe abdominal pain and blood in the stool or urine, depending on the affected area.

If we look at the general probability of dying, it is 1,817 times more likely to be drowned in the sea than from a shark bite . We must therefore be much more afraid of water than of sharks. Obviously, in general, few people die from shark attacks because we do not usually live in the sea, but if we even go far back in time to countries with a coast, like Spain, we will discover that there have only been three attacks recorded in … 400 years. None of them left the victim in serious condition .

In addition, although there are more people in the sea practicing water sports or simply on the beaches, it must be taken into account that there are fewer and fewer sharks. The percentage of great white sharks , for example, has dropped by 90% in just 30 years .

As if that were not enough, we have more and more precise technologies to avoid sharks or get out of the water before they arrive. Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), for example, Spielberg might not have been able to shoot his movie Jaws , as Marc Goodman explains in his book The Crimes of the Future :

In Australia, for example, there are more than three hundred sharks on Twitter (and no, they didn’t create the account). The researchers placed acoustic tags on 338 sharks, which emit a signal to the receivers installed on the shores when the animals are less than a kilometer from the beach […] nearly forty thousand bathers have subscribed as followers of the accounts on Twitter from these sharks.

Sharks, yes, are surprising (and even beneficial to humans) in very different ways. In fact, not only do they not take our lives, but they could give it to us in a certain way: offering us the key to being longer .

Methuselah Logevity of Four Centuries

A recently discovered shark that has become the oldest living vertebrate on the face of the Earth. Research led by Danish marine biologist Julius Nielsen , and published in the journal Science , suggests that the Greenland shark ( Somniosus microcephalus ) can reach 400 years of life .

Specifically, the oldest shark they have found was 392 years old, that is, it was born at the same time as Cervantes. What if we found the secret of that longevity to apply it to human beings?

Various reasons have been conjectured for this species turning so many years, such as that it grows very slowly (just one centimeter per year) or that it lives in waters at very low temperatures (which slows down its metabolism). However, other arctic fish do not live as long as this shark. The person responsible for its discovery is convinced that if we found the determining factor of its longevity, we could use it to become Methuselah or, at least, delay aging a little more .

White shark A white shark photographed in 2006.

Much was unknown about the Greenland shark because it is an elusive species (it lives more than 2,000 meters deep) and lacks economic interest (its meat is poisonous, due to high concentrations of trimethylamine oxide), but now it is It has become the target of researchers for its uncanny ability to live twice and even triple that of other vertebrates .

In the end, sharks are not only not very dangerous, but we better conserve and study them: thanks to them, perhaps, we will live longer than ever .