What is Shark Eyes?
Shark Eyes is a visual shark deterrent, designed and used by the most experienced watermen in Australian waters – abalone divers. Abalone divers have more encounters with sharks in Australia on a regular basis than anyone. Shark Eyes has also been endorsed by marine scientists, shark researchers, abalone divers and professional water sports athletes. We also offer a practical, Shark Safety Guide which contains detailed knowledge about shark behaviour and how you can lower risk. This Guide was developed by working closely with the people mentioned above, because nobody understands shark behaviour better.
How does it work?
1. Sharks can see really well
That sharks have incredibly strong senses is very well known. But recent research shows that a shark’s vision is strong. Sharks can see exceptionally well. Sharks were found to use their vision to detect surface prey (Strong, 1996). So for surfers, swimmers, snorkellers and other water craft users, this means sharks will generally detect you by firstly seeing you. Gruber & Cohen (1985) also demonstrated that sharks have high visual capabilities. Sharks are ambush predators. This means they rely heavily on the element of surprise (Strong, 1996). Research shows that sharks conduct a risk assessment before attacking their prey (Lima & Dill, 1989). “Shark Eyes” aims to work during this initial risk assessment stage. They aim to stop the trusted, element of surprise so that the shark will consider the attack to be higher risk. If you can impact the sharks initial risk assessment, the shark can change its “strike” behaviour to “abort” behaviour (Martin et al., 2005) Shark Eyes is designed to mimic the human eye. It does not look like usual or natural prey. Significant research went into the design of a set of eyes that we know sharks can see. Science can not yet determine whether sharks can see colour or not, but we do know they can see contrast. The Shark Eyes design uses contrast to achieve a realistic, depth of field. Great White Shark checking out the photographer Phillip Thurston
2. Shark Eyes takes away the element of surprise in predation
When the element of surprise is lost, often an attack is aborted. Sharks are ambush predators just like lions and Tigers. Like most land apex predators, shark predation relies heavily on the element of surprise. We know and have witnessed sharks change their behaviour and become more cautious once eye contact has been made. Shark Eyes is designed to mimic human eye contact, making the shark feel like it has been spotted, taking away their element of surprise. This has the potential to change the behaviour of the shark and prevent an attack. Marc Payne (Ambassador) staring at a Great White taking away the element of surprise
Shark Eyes is simply copying what nature is already doing. Mimicry is scientifically proven as a successful defence mechanism seen often in nature. Land and water animals are known to adapt to mimic large false eyes mostly on their rears to fend off predators. Mimicry is seen in birds, butterflies, moths, cats, caterpillars, fish and more. Humans have successfully used mimicry as a line of defence in India. Face masks were applied to the back of the locals heads to protect them from tigers. Before face masks were introduced the fatality rate was 60 deaths a year. After the introduction of the face masks no fatalities were recorded. PrevNext 1234567 Mimicry is seen in fish to defend from larger predators & humans using mimicry to defend against tiger attacks.
Why use Shark Eyes?
The threat of shark attack is slowly eating away at our carefree attitude as shark encounters and attacks are increasing in Australian waters. This is affecting our enjoyment in the ocean. The intention of the Shark Eyes visual deterrent and the additional information booklet is to offer you practical information, make you feel safer and more confident in the water and importantly minimise your risk of an unwanted encounter or attack.
Scientific Theory behind Shark Eyes:
Sharks are visual predators that predominately use the element of surprise when attacking (Strong,1996), usually attacking from behind and beneath its prey (Tricas and McCosker 1984). Strong(1996) found sharks were initially attracted to their prey with sense of smell but appeared to use vision the closer it approached. A shark’s vision is well developed and more elaborate than most fishes (Gilbert, 1963), having duplex retinas containing both rod and cone photoreceptors (Gruber & Cohen, 1985) indicating they have high visual capabilities and ability to see colour.
When predating, sharks undertake a risk assessment before attacking its prey (Lima and Dill, 1989; Martin et al., 2005) and it’s at this point where “Shark eyes” is designed to assist watermen. “Shark Eyes” is intended to signal the approaching predator that it has been detected, effectively saying “I’ve seen you” and thereby altering the shark’s predatory behaviour. “Shark eyes” therefore aims to alter the sharks risk assessment and deter the shark from attacking. By taking away the element of surprise, the shark has a reduced chance of successfully capturing its prey. For example, an adult white shark is usually not agile enough to capture a fleeing, darting seal hence it generally attacks its prey by surprise (Tricas and McCosker, 1984). Similarly, Strong (1996) observed in numerous occasions that fur seals and sea lions easily avoided white sharks, suggesting that once the shark was visually detected, the change of capture of the seal prey drop considerably. Once a shark sees the “Shark eyes” and realises it has been detected, it may now be optimal for the shark to abandon its attack.
As described by Martin et al., (2005) the stages of predatory behaviour by a white shark involves a “Gather Info” stage before deciding to “Strike” or “Abort” an attack. It’s at this “Gather Info” stage that “Shark Eyes” aims to influence the sharks risk assessment, altering the shark’s behaviour to “Abort”.
Figure 1. (Above) Hypothesized decision tree of predatory tactics by white sharks on surface borne Cape fur seals at Seal Island, South Africa. Modified from Martin et al., (2005). Additionally, the concept that “eyespots” used in mimicry (or finspots in fish) can reduce the risk of a predatory attack is well supported (Blest 1957, Vallin et al., 2005) and further complements the theory to “Shark Eyes”.
Blest, A.D. (1957) The function of eyespot patterns in the lepidoptera. Behaviour, 11, 209 – 256.
Gilbert, P.W. (1963) The visual apparatus. In: Sharks and survival. P.W Gilbert, ed. D.C. Heath and Co., Boston, pp. 283 – 326.
Lima, S.L., Dill, L.M. (1990) Behavioural decisions made under the risk of predation: a review asn prospectus. Can. J. Zool 68:619 – 640
Strong, W.R. (1996) Shape Discrimination and Visual Predatory Tactics in White Sharks. In: Klimley, A.P. & Ainley, D. (Eds.) Great White Sharks. The biology of Carcharodon carcharias : 229 – 240.
Tricas, T.C. and McCosker, J.E. (1984) Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences series 4 1984 43:221-238
Vallin, A., Jakobsson, S. Wicklund, C. (2005) Prey survival by predator intimidation: an experimental study of peacock butterfly defense against blue tits. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, 272, 1203 – 1207.