The Florida Museum of Natural History is a beautiful museum with an important role in the world: conveying to the public how beautiful the natural world is. The museum has several permanent exhibits celebrating the joy of life, including a butterfly rainforest, a waterways and wildlife exhibit, and a huge collection of fossils that depict how animals evolved from the ocean to live on land.
But butterflies and mammoth bones aside, the Florida Museum of Natural History offers a second, equally important public service that's the result of research over centuries. Though the title is fairly mundane, “Species Implicated in Attacks,” the meat of the article is much less clandestine.
The list is nothing less than a compilation of every unprovoked shark attack since 1580, which, when you really look at the data, is somewhat of an exhaustive look at the most dangerous sharks in the world.
Courtesy of the Florida Museum of Natural History
Of course, this isn’t a scare tactic to make people afraid of sharks, or at least more afraid of sharks than they normally are.
But it is a helpful, data-filled reminder that some shark-inhabited waters are a little more treacherous than others, News.Au reports.
Riding high at the top of the list are what the authors call the “Big Three,” which kind of feels like the nickname you have for the leaders of the mob, or the most elite schools in the Ivy League. But on this list, the Big Three refers to white, tiger and bull sharks, which are among the largest species of sharks and very capable of seriously injuring a human.
They also often swim in coastal waters and have teeth that are designed to rip flesh apart as opposed to grip onto it. Chill, right? If that scares you, the author of the report on history's most dangerous sharks, George H. Burgess, reassures you that any shark above 6 feet is pretty dangerous to humans just due to the sheer power of the jaw.
In other words, you have a lot more to worry about than just the Big Three on this list of the most dangerous sharks in the world.
The list does come with a warning, however, about the admitted slant of the listing. In Burgess’s words:
“USE THIS TABLE WITH CAUTION! Positive identification of attacking sharks is very difficult since victims rarely make adequate observations of the attacker during the 'heat' of the interaction. Tooth remains are seldom found in wounds, and diagnostic characters for many requiem sharks (family Carcharhinidae) are difficult to discern even by trained professionals.
That said, this list must be used with caution because attacks involving easily identified species — such as white, tiger, sand tiger, hammerhead and nurse sharks — nearly always identify the attacking species, while cases involving difficult-to-identify species, such as requiem sharks of the genus Carcharhinus, seldom correctly identify the attacker.
Thus the list is skewed to readily identified species.”
After all this, your question may be, “What is the safest shark on Earth?” There are actually hundreds. The guitarfish, zebra shark, Port Jackson shark, cookiecutter shark and the Galapagos shark are each responsible for just one attack since 1580.
So if you’re looking for finned friends, try the zebra sharks.