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New study documents first cookiecutter shark attack on a live human
Date:7/1/2011

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- A new study co-authored by University of Florida researchers provides details on the first cookiecutter shark attack on a live human, a concern as warm summer waters attract more people to the ocean.

The study currently online and appearing in the July print edition of Pacific Science warns that swimmers entering the cookiecutter's range of open ocean tropical waters may be considered prey.

The sharks feed near the surface at night, meaning daytime swimmers are less likely to encounter them. The species is small, with adults reaching about 2 feet, but their unique jaws specialize in scooping out a piece of flesh, leaving victims with a crater-like wound.

"Not only is it painful, but it presents a difficult circumstance for recovery in the sense that there has to be plastic surgery to close the wound and you have permanent tissue loss," said co-author George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File housed at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. "It's not as scary as 'Jaws,' but it's very different from any other kind of attack we have in the International Shark Attack File because of the size of the shark and the modus operandi."

The March 16, 2009, incident involved a cookiecutter shark, Isistius brasiliensis, repeatedly attacking a long-distance swimmer attempting to cross the Alenuihaha Channel from Hawaii to Maui.

After sunset, the victim said the first bite on his chest felt "like a pin prick." He then was bitten on the left calf while climbing into the rescue kayak following him during the swim. The International Shark Attack File lists two other incidents involving cookiecutters, both judged to be inflicted post-mortem. Dubbed "demon whale biters" by biologist Stewart Springer, a shark expert who studied the fish for more than 60 years before his death in 1991, cookiecutters inhabit deep tropical waters and their bites have been found on
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Contact: George Burgess
gburgess@flmnh.ufl.edu
352-392-2360
University of Florida
Source:Eurekalert

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