We all know sharks can smell blood, but how far away do they have to be to pick up the scent? Science is so developed nowadays, that we actually have found out the specific answer for this very-asked question!
Sharks devote a massive part of their brain to their sense of smell, partly so they can hunt for food, and so they can pick up scents.
Sharks do not have nostrils, but they have ‘nares’, which pick up the scents in the water. These nares help them sense smells in the ocean, and these nares allow them to smell low concentrations of smells.
Basically, sharks only need to get a tiny whiff of something in order to find it.
So, you may be wondering how far away sharks can smell blood. This is a common misconception and popular question.
A lot of people think sharks can smell blood from miles away, but this isn’t the case. Let’s find out the answer.
How Do Sharks Find Food/Prey?
Sharks use their scent nares to detect prey. They also use their hearing, eyes, lateral line and electroreception.
The lateral line is a system that is found in most sea life. The lateral line system is present in sharks, running underneath the skin in fluid-filled lines to create sensory cells.
This system allows sharks to sense movement, pressure, and vibrations in the water. This will help them be aware of their surroundings, and ultimately finding their next meal.
Electroreception is the ability for certain animals (including sharks) to pick up electrical stimuli and create personal electric fields.
This is not as science-fiction as it sounds; sharks can sense their prey using the electroreception fields to stun prey and seek out movement.
Sharks use taste and touch too, but nowhere near as much as they may use their other senses to seek out prey. In general, sharks are stimulated by low frequency sounds and vibrations, as well as electrical impulses.
When you swim underwater, you can feel the vibrations and buzzing of noise and sensations around you. This is exactly how sharks find their prey.
How Do Sharks Pick Up Smells?
Sharks can detect smells underwater. But, how do they do this? Their nares are located underneath their head, but they don’t actually use them for breathing as we do.
All sea creatures breathe through their gills, but they do use their nares for detecting scents.
When there is a scent in the water, the scent will carry, and the molecules will fill the water.
Sharks will pick up this scent (which could be blood), and the cells inside their nares will detect these particles of blood in the water. Once sharks detect a small, their brain acknowledges it.
This then leads them to seeking out the smell.
Do Sharks Smell Fear?
It is commonly though that predators can smell fear. However, this is not necessarily true. Sharks cannot smell fear, but they can pick up scents.
They cannot pick up emotional scents, especially if the shark is in the water and the prey is outside the water.
As we have learned from above, sharks get a scent or something in the water, and this scent will carry, with its molecules filling the water. For this reason, sharks cannot smell fear because fear is not a physical thing.
Can You Tell If A Shark Is Near?
There are a few things that may indicate a shark being nearby. This includes lots of fish activity, birds diving and circling, clear water, and active fishing areas.
Sharks will naturally be located closer to where they can find prey, which will be fish and sea life.
Fish are scared of sharks because they are predators, so when you see fish migrating quickly from one area, or jumping above the surface of the ocean, this will mean that there is a shark in the area.
Additionally, birds flocking and diving toward the ocean is a sign that a shark is near. This is because birds also prey on fish, so wherever the fish are leaving, the birds will circle and follow.
It is also an alert that a shark is nearby.
When water is clear, a shark will be able to see better. This is a telling sign of whether a shark is in the area or is attracted to this area.
They can see fish and prey easier if the water is clear, much like humans can spot a shark in the water if it is clear. Avoid clearer areas of the ocean.
Finally, active fishing ports, harbors, and general areas will attract fish. As we’ve learned, sharks can find the scent of fish.
If there is a large fishing industry nearby, it is likely that there will be sharks in the deeper water areas nearby. This is because they know there are fish there, and they are waiting to prey on the fish.
Can Sharks Drown?
Sharks live in the water, but can they drown? Fish, as well as sharks, do not have lungs, so they can’t breathe. However, they breathe in the oxygen particles that are present within the water.
Sharks cannot survive outside the water, but there are actually cases where sharks may technically drown. This happens when the oxygen levels in the water are changed or low.
Sharks take in oxygen through their gills, and it is necessary for their survival as well as general functioning. Without oxygen, sharks will be oxygen deprived, and they will die.
There are other ways that sharks can drown in the water. This includes from having their fins removed. As we know, this is not a nice process, and it is done for medicinal and edible purposes for humans.
When their fins are removed, they can no longer swim, leaving them to sink to the bottom of the ocean where the oxygen depletes. This means that these sharks will die a long and painful death.
Sharks have five fins, and their bodies are shaped to keep them upright and continuously swimming. Their fins are situated in places that aim to keep them upright, and they will not function if they are upside down.
Unfortunately, if you turn a shark upside down, they can get something called tonic immobility. This is also referred to as animal hypnosis.
This will cause paralysis in the shark, and this can last for over ten minutes. Orca whales have been known to tip great white sharks upside down, leaving them to suffocate and die.
If they are upside down, they are paralyzed, meaning it is difficult for them to breathe.
How Far Away Can Sharks Smell Blood?
As we have learned above, sharks can pick up scents in the water through particles flowing through their nares. They can detect smells from far away, including blood.
But, how far away can they really pick up scents? In general, it is recorded that sharks can pick up scents between 1 part in 20 million. That is a tiny part in a huge area of water.
This is incredibly impressive, and there are many things that can effect what scents sharks can pick up and how strong they are.
The current of the water will massively affect how quickly that scent reaches the shark, due to the diffusion and movement of these scent particles in the water.
The water should carry the scent to the shark in order for the shark to follow and pick it up. This applies to blood.
If there is a drop of blood somewhere nearby and the waves are choppy, it will probably be more difficult for the shark to pick up the scent.
This will be because the water is moving a lot, causing the scent to dissipate slightly. It will take longer for this scent particle to get to the shark because it has been dispersed.
Sharks can smell blood from just under a mile away, but this will be when the conditions are in their favor.
Obviously, this will depend on the current of the water, the depth of the ocean, the distance, and the type of shark.
Do Sharks Attack Humans?
Shark attacks are rare, but they do happen. Sharks prey on most sea creatures that are smaller than them, including fish and turtles.
It is recorded that worldwide, there are under 100 shark attacks per year. Shark attacks are so much rarer than the common perception, and as long as you do not agitate the sharks, you will walk away without a scratch.
Primarily, sharks will only attack prey or threats. Sharks eat when it is their opportunity, so they may attack larger mammals if they are at risk of going hungry.
Some large types of sharks have been known to feast on sea lions or seals.
What Do You Do If A Shark Circles You?
There is a risk that a shark may circle you if it is feeling threatened, and if it thinks you are its prey. This is not common, but it is good to know what to do if it happens.
Sharks may circle you for many reasons. The main reason for a shark circling you is if they are not sure what your purpose is, and if you may be their food. So what should you do if a shark starts circling you?
Firstly and most importantly, don’t panic. Although this would be a natural and likely response if you are circled by a shark, this response will cause you to act like their prey.
Fish flail around and jump, and a shark cannot identify that you are a human if you are acting similarly. Try to take deep breaths, and move as little as possible.
It is best to just stay still, and the shark will probably leave you along when it realizes you are not its food.
Secondly, try to back away from the shark. You can slowly start to back away once the shark has left the area.
If you try to move when the shark is nearby, they may be inclined to stay and potentially attack you, and this is exactly what you do not want.
Try to leave the area. If you are looking for an area to swim in, look for areas that are away from sandbars or steep gradients, because this is where the sharks are most likely to linger.
Additionally, if it is well known that there are sharks in the area, stay away.
Lastly, fight back. This is unlikely to occur, but this is good information to know in the case that it happens to you. If a shark starts to attack you, you need to attack back.
This will get rid of the shark as quickly as possible. Do whatever you can to get away from the shark, or get the shark away from you.
The best place to attack a shark is to hit its nose. It will instantly cower. Other good ways to attack a shark that is attacking you is by clawing at its most sensitive areas. This includes their eyes, and their gills.
What Are Sharks Afraid Of?
Sharks are often seen as some of the scariest creatures on the planet, but they too have fears. Generally speaking, sharks are pretty afraid of humans.
It is important to understand that a shark will not attack a human unless it thinks you are a fish or general prey. The best thing to do is appear as human-like as possible when a shark is nearby.
Sharks can be afraid of dolphins. Dolphins are physically aggressive and stronger in comparison to sharks, and sharks will actively avoid dolphin for this reason.
Dolphins also live in pods, and they will congregate together. They are extremely intelligent creatures, and they stay closely together.
Additionally, white sharks are often afraid or orcas. It is not completely known why this is, but orcas are very big, and sharks can feel outnumbered and weaker in comparison to them.
Sharks are one of the most feared creatures on the planet, but they’re actually not that scary. They are known for being able to smell blood from a long distance away.
This sounds terrifying, but this is merely a survival tactic, and a way for them to find their food every day.
Thank you for reading!