Are sharks really dangerous? After all, you’re more likely to be killed by lightning or faulty wiring on your Christmas tree than by a shark [source: McCarthy]. Death by bee sting occurs far more often than death by shark [source: Burgess]. In the water, you’re more apt to drown or be injured by your own surfboard than be hurt by a shark [source: Martin].
Researchers love to throw around statistics like these to redeem sharks. Here’s another juicy one: In 1987, more than 8,000 dogs bit humans in New York City, while there were 1,587 reported instances of a human biting a human in the Big Apple. That same year, there were 13 shark attacks in the entire United States [source: ISAF]. Statistically, it would seem that a person was more likely to be bit while riding the New York City subway than swimming in the ocean.
Still, sharks and the possibility of attack continue to terrify us, thanks to movies like “Jaws” and sensational news reports. For many, sharks represent the unknown and the unknowable. While we can forgive some of those 8,000 dogs for biting us, sharks don’t show the same types of emotion, which makes it easy to paint them as mindless man-eaters. Sometimes the statistics support our fears. In the past few years, the number of shark attacks has risen slightly, although that’s likely due to more people engaging in recreational water activities, as opposed to hungrier sharks.
Any shark that measures more than 6 feet (1.8 meters) is a potential threat to humans because it’s big and because it likely has adaptations, such as more developed jaws and stronger teeth, that have enabled its large size [sources: Burgess, Ritter]. These sharks may not be specifically trolling for human flesh, but if they were to take a sample bite, they could do some serious damage.
While the most dangerous shark may always be the one that’s swimming right towards you, it’s worth remembering that of the almost 400 identified shark species, less than 10 percent have been implicated in an attack on a human [source: Martin]. Of the approximately 30 species that have attacked, which are the most dangerous? Let’s sift through the attack statistics, the stereotypes and the sharp teeth to find out.