Article

Fatal attack by a juvenile tiger shark, Galeocerdo cuvier, on a kitesurfer in New Caledonia (South Pacific)

Authors:
  • NSW Fisheries
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Abstract

We present a case of a non-provoked fatal shark attack on a 15-year old male kitesurfer in New Caledonia. The victim lost his board and was pulled by the sail along the water surface in a reef passage when a shark attacked. The shark inflicted at least two bites on the left leg, including a severe one around the knee, resulting in a quick hypovolemic shock that was fatal. The analysis of one of these bites indicated that a 2.8 m TL (est. length) tiger shark was responsible for this attack. The features of the attack are consistent with those of a predator response to a surface feeding stimulus.

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... Case study C: description of the wounds on a 15-year-old male kite surfer who was fatally bitten in a reef passage of the barrier reef of New Caledonia (adapted from Ref. [47]) ...
... As mentioned in the autopsy report, the death was undoubtedly caused by a cardiopulmonary collapse due to the huge haemorrhage following the severing of the left femoral blood vessel through the first wound. The analysis of the first wound (W1) revealed that it was probably the result of two different adjacent and overlapping bites or one single bite inflicted as the leg was bending (see [47] for details). Analysis of the lower bite showed that the orientation of the tooth impressions and their shape, together with the small, smoothly sliced flaps, and the very smooth arc of the upper jaw bite, indicate a tiger shark as probably responsible for this attack. ...
... These impressions are more or less parallel and have sharp cut corners, which is consistent with a tiger shark ( Figure 11A). Also, the shape of the tooth impressions shows no clear morphological differences between those from the upper and lower jaws, indicating dignathic homodont jaws [47], characteristic of the tiger shark, compared to the white shark and bull shark which have dignathic heterodont jaws. In addition to these elements, the shape of some flesh flaps showed that there was an almost overlapping between the teeth ( Figure 11A and B). ...
... This was a continuous case series. A nonprovoked shark attack was defined as aggressive physical contact between one or multiple sharks and a human in a shark's natural habitat, without human provocation, 15 that results in physical injuries. ...
... Multiple case reports have been published in this context. 3,15,20 It is hard to identify patterns with these varied cases, and statistical analysis should be interpreted with caution. ...
... Hypovolemic shock was the most common cause of death in our case series, as in the literature. 3,4,6,15 The attack was fatal each time subfascial injuries of the trunk occurred (thoracic, abdominal, pelvic). 2,6 Any witness to a shark attack must not hesitate to apply a tourniquet, given the massive bleeding and the relative harmlessness of excessive tourniquet use, considering the availability of surgical treatment. ...
Article
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Background: Between January 2000 and September 2016, there have been 27 documented shark attacks on La Réunion Island. The insular nature of La Réunion has allowed us to carry out an extensive survey of these attacks. The objective was to describe the clinical features of these shark attacks, as only case reports have been published up to now. Methods: This was a retrospective observational study of the 27 cases of non-provoked shark attacks that have occurred between January 2000 and September 2016. Post-humate predation, provoked attacks and isolated attack on devices were excluded. All bone and vascular injuries were documented in the 21 remaining cases. Prehospital tourniquet use was specifically recorded. Results: Among the 21 victims, 8 died (38%) despite rapid use of resuscitation techniques in 5 cases when it was feasible; these techniques were not needed in the survivors. Thirteen patients were immediately treated in the operating room. Amputation or disarticulation occurred 13 times in 10 victims, 5 of whom died. Twelve injuries to major vascular structures were found in 11 victims, 6 of which died. A prehospital tourniquet was applied in 4 of the 5 surviving victims who had injuries to major vascular structures (including 1 victim with major humeral and femoral artery damage) and in 1 victim who died (the very proximal wound was not controlled). Conclusion: Our study found that quickly applying a tourniquet to the injured limb(s) contributes to the victim's survival. Disarticulation is a particular feature of shark attacks. The number and severity of shark attacks at La Réunion Island are worse than in the rest of the world. Level of evidence: Epidemiological study, IV.
... As a consequence, the species involved is not positively identified in ~70% of global shark bite incidents (data from the International Shark Attack Files, 2010-2019 bites; floridamuseum.ufl.edu/shark-attacks/). It may be possible to use bite impressions left in victims or their apparel or accessories (e.g., wetsuits or surfboards) to identify culprit species, but even experts using this approach have disagreed over the interpretation of bite impressions [4][5][6][7][8]. Modern DNA technology provides a potential tool for definitive species identification provided sufficient DNA is transferred from the shark to the victim or victim's articles (e.g., surfboard, wetsuit, paddle) and adheres despite immersion in seawater. ...
Article
Identifying the species involved in shark bite incidents is an ongoing challenge but is important to mitigate risk. We developed a sampling protocol to identify shark species from DNA transferred to inanimate objects during bite incidents. To develop and refine the technique, we swabbed shark bite impressions on surfboards and wetsuit neoprene collected under semicontrolled conditions. Methods were tested experimentally and then successfully used to identify the species involved in a real-world shark bite incident. Thirty-two of 33 bite impressions yielded sufficient DNA sequences for species identification, producing barcodes from five test species, including dusky, Galapagos, bull, tiger, and white shark. The latter three species collectively account for a majority of shark bites worldwide. Our method successfully identified the species (Galeocerdo cuvier) responsible for a fatal shark bite on December 8th, 2020 on the island of Maui, from swab samples collected from the victim's surfboard 49 h after the bite incident. Our experimental results demonstrate that shark species can be accurately identified from transfer DNA recovered from bite impressions on surfboards and wetsuit neoprene. The successful use of our method in the real-world incident shows great potential for the practicality of this tool. We recommend DNA swabbing as a routine part of the forensic analysis of shark bites to help identify the species involved in human-shark interactions.
... Sharks are marine predators that constitute a potential threat to humans and their specific behaviours often play a critical role in triggering fatal attacks (Clua & Séret 2010;Clua & Reid 2013;Clua et al. 2014). Several authors have recently outlined the economic importance of shark-based ecotourism which far outweighs the single-use income obtained from fishing (Clua et al. 2011;Gallagher & Hammerschlag 2011;Vianna et al. 2012). ...
... Additionally, new sports, such as kite surfing, have emerged, which have resulted in water users more frequently utilising additional coastal areas (e.g. inter-reefal areas) for leisure activities (Clua et al., 2014). This paper has generally supported the increase in human population, and by extension, the increase in water users as being a factor that contributes substantially to the trend of unprovoked shark bite. ...
... It states that a surfer resembles a pinniped when seen from below and therefore might accidentally get bitten. Although questioned in the past [9,10], this theory has never been properly tested and, until proven correct, should merely be seen as an assumption and not be used in a factual manner [11][12][13]. ...
Article
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The theory of mistaken identity states that sharks, especially white sharks, Carcharodon carcharias , mistake surfers for pinnipeds when looking at them from below and thus bite them erroneously. Photographs of surfer wounds and board damage were interpreted with special emphasis on shark size, wound severity, and extent of damage to a board. These were compared with the concurrent literature on attack strategies of white sharks on pinnipeds and their outcomes. The results show that the majority of damage to surfers and their boards is at best superficial-to-moderate in nature and does not reflect the level of damage needed to immobilize or stun a pinniped. It is further shown that the size distribution of sharks biting surfers differs from that in pinnipeds. The results presented show that the theory of mistaken identity, where white sharks erroneously mistake surfers for pinnipeds, does not hold true and should be rejected.
... The sharks most commonly documented in severe attacks on live humans and interactions with human remains are the white shark (Carcharodon carcharias), tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier), and bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) (2,6,9,(11)(12)(13)(14)(15)(16)(17). Other smaller species, such as the blacktip shark (Carcharhinus limbatus) and spinner shark (Carcharhinus brevipinna), likely are the unidentified attackers in the majority of less-severe attacks on live humans (18). ...
Article
This is an accepted manuscript of an article slated to appear in the Journal of Forensic Sciences in 2017. For the definitive work, please see version of record (currently in Early View at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1556-4029). This research examines a series of six Florida forensic anthropology cases that exhibit taphonomic evidence of marine deposition and shark-feeding activities. In each case, we analyzed patterns of trauma/damage on the skeletal remains (e.g., sharp-force bone gouges and punctures) and possible mechanisms by which they were inflicted during shark predation/scavenging. In some cases, shark teeth were embedded in the remains; in the absence of this evidence, we measured interdental distance from defects in the bone to estimate shark body length, as well as to draw inferences about the potential species responsible. We discuss similarities and differences among the cases and make comparisons to literature documenting diagnostic shark-inflicted damage to human remains from nearby regions. We find that the majority of cases potentially involve bull or tiger sharks scavenging the remains of previously deceased, adult male individuals. This scavenging results in a distinctive taphonomic signature including incised gouges in cortical bone.
... Shark bites are extremely rare events with 66 confirmed cases worldwide in 2018 (1) that receive disproportionate and sensationalized media attention leading to a distorted public perception of risk despite fatalities occurring in < 10% of these incidents (2). The slight increase in total yearly bites since 2000 is likely explained by the increasing number of people participating in ocean recreation (3) and the development of new watersports that increase the probability of shark-human interactions in areas previously unused by humans (4). For example, reef passages connecting lagoons and open ocean in tropical waters are both natural hotspots for marine predators such as sharks (5) and increasingly popular locations for surfing. ...
Article
Identifying the species and size of sharks responsible for biting humans is essential for developing strategies to prevent these incidents. Here, we use bite wound characteristics and genetic analysis of a tooth fragment extracted from the wounds to identify a sicklefin lemon shark Negaprion acutidens as the perpetrator of nonfatal bites on the legs of an adult male surfer at Makemo atoll (French Polynesia) in January 2018. The bite was superficial, and N. acutidens are fish predators not known to feed on large prey; hence, foraging is an unlikely explanation for this incident rather linked to territoriality. Lemon sharks are occasionally aggressive toward humans and are site attached with relatively small home ranges; hence, avoiding surfing in the area of a previous bite incident is recommended to decrease the risk of future injuries.
... Available historic data before the 1990s dealing with fatal attacks on humans in New Caledonia does not allow a reliable identification of the species involved. More recent fatal attacks that were thoroughly documented show that a white shark was responsible for a fatal attack on a woman on Luengoni beach (Lifou) in 2007 (Clua and Séret 2010) and another fatal strike on a young male surfer near Bourail (Grande Terre) in 2009 (Clua and Reid 2013), while a tiger shark was responsible for a fatal attack on a young male kitesurfer in Kendec pass near Koumac (Grande Terre) in 2011 (Clua et al. 2014). Regarding the myths involving large sharks, however, details seldom allow a determinationof which species is meant, except in some instances in which a white color is mentioned, favoring the white shark. ...
Article
This study focuses on the important role of sharks in the Melanesian mythology. Based on unpublished stories essentially originating from New Caledonia, we show how strong the links are between myths and the physical environment in which Kanak live. As prevalent mythical animals, sharks can indifferently play the role of avengers and righters of wrongs, or vehicles for the spirits of living or dead people. They can be either allies or enemies in wars, and their role as potential man‐killers is never overlooked. However, when humans are attacked and killed by a shark, it is always for a material reason: the victim broke a rule or a tabu, the shark was an enemy, the sharks withdrew protection, the event allowed a pregnant woman to reach a new territory, etc. Beyond arbitrary metaphysical justifications, such perceptions reflect respect for social and natural order. For Kanak ni‐Vanuatu and other Pacific Islander peoples, sharks are part of a coherent Nature that includes natural and social hazards. In the quest for sustainable development of the planet, more in harmony with Nature, so‐called ‘developed societies’ might draw inspiration from such perceptions. Indigenous understandings could also help change the globally negative perception of sharks, and support shark conservation efforts in Oceania and worldwide.
... Most sharks do not attack humans without provocation, but among those that do the most dangerous are white (Carcharodon carcharias), tiger (Galeocerdo cuvier), and bull (Carcharhinus leucas) sharks (Burgess, 1991;Burgess and Callahan, 1996;Caldicott et al., 2001;Clua et al., 2014;Coppleson, 1962;Davies and Campbell, 1962;Howard and Burgess, 1993;˙I şcan and McCabe, 1995;Nakaya, 1993). Unprovoked shark attacks tend to follow three patterns -'hit-and-run', 'bump-andbite', and 'sneak' attacks (Burgess, 1991). ...
Article
Modern shark attacks are uncommon and archaeological examples are even rarer, with the oldest previously known case dating to ca. AD 1000. Here we report a shark attack on an adult male radiocarbon dated to 1370–1010 cal BC during the fisher-hunter-gatherer Jo ̄mon period of the Japanese archipelago. The individual was buried at the Tsukumo site near Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, where modern shark attacks have been reported. The victim has at least 790 perimortem traumatic lesions characteristic of a shark attack, including deep, incised bone gouges, punctures, cuts with overlapping striations and perimortem blunt force fractures. Lesions were mapped onto a 3D model of the human skeleton using a Geographical Information System to assist visualisation and analysis of the injuries. The distribution of wounds suggests the victim was probably alive at the time of attack rather than scavenged. The most likely species of shark responsible for the attack is either a white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) or a tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier). Shortly after the attack most, though not all, of his body was recovered and buried in the Tsukumo cemetery.
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Shark attacks are rare but are associated with a high morbidity and significant mortality. We report the case of a patient's survival from a shark attack and their subsequent emergency medical and surgical management. Using data from the International Shark Attack File, we review the worldwide distribution and incidence of shark attack. A review of the world literature examines the features which make shark attacks unique pathological processes. We offer suggestions for strategies of management of shark attack, and techniques for avoiding adverse outcomes in human encounters with these endangered creatures.
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Bite wounds on humans have rarely been comparatively analyzed, and the behavior leading to such bites is virtually unknown. Nevertheless, the behavior of a shark is reflected in the bite structure and should be an essential part of shark-accident analysis. This paper compares 3 nonfatal accidents on humans, caused by bull sharks, Carcharhinus leucas, that occurred within a 12-month period in the same area of the Bahamas. Examination focused on wound analysis and accident reconstruction to determine the most likely bite motivation of the sharks. Two sharks targeted the left calf areas of the victims; another one bit the back area of a person. Although both calf bites had a very similar appearance, examination concluded that one of them showed the same triggering behavior as for the shark who inflicted the very different-looking back bite. Those 2 bites were competitive, whereas the other calf bite was initially of exploratory nature, turning into a stress-related bite.
Decadal trends in shark catches and effort from the New SouthWales
  • D Reid
  • R Robbins
  • V Peddemors
Reid D, Robbins R, Peddemors V. Decadal trends in shark catches and effort from the New SouthWales, 2011 Wales, Australia, Shark Meshing Program 1950e2010. Mar Freshw Res 2011;62:676e93.
Differential use of habitats by adult bull sharks, Carcharhinus leucas, in the New Caledonian great lagon
  • J Werry
  • E Clua
Werry J, Clua E. Differential use of habitats by adult bull sharks, Carcharhinus leucas, in the New Caledonian great lagon. Aquat Living Resour 2013;26:281e8. http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/alr/2013063.