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Science Hopes "Invisibility Wetsuits" Might Deter Sharks

| 19 Jul 2013 18:17
Shark

Having found that sharks are color-blind, Australian scientists have deployed two new wetsuits which they believe will keep the toothy beasts at bay.

Despite their fearsome reputation, sharks are like any other animal. They eat, swim and reproduce according to instinct, and have very little in the way of reasoning skills. This is a lucky break for us humans, as it allows science to create wetsuits that either render a person effectively invisible or actively frighten the shark into avoiding the wearer. Wetsuits like the newly-revealed "Elude" and "Diverter."

The Elude, as you'd expect, is the so-called "invisibility wetsuit." It relies on a camouflage pattern to hide a person among the waves. The Diverter, by contrast, utilizes bright white and dark blue stripes to send a message to sharks that this particular creature is, at best, unappetizing (and at worst, full of poison). "Many animals in biology are repelled by noxious animals - prey that provide a signal that somehow says 'Don't eat me' - and that has been manifest in a striped pattern," states Professor Shaun Collin of the University of Western Australia's Ocean Institute. "We are using a lot of nature's technology, based on high-contrast-based banding patterns. The wearer will be obvious, and the idea is the shark will see that as an unpalatable food item and swim right by."

These new suits are a joint effort between researchers at the University of Western Australia, and designers at Shark Attack Mitigation Systems. Western Australia has been a hotbed of shark activity of late - 5 fatal attacks have occurred in a recent 12-month span - and the team behind these suits hopes that they might save a few lives.

"The idea is to reduce the risk of the wearer in certain conditions," says Collin.

Testing of these suits is ongoing, but the team claims that both suits have already been successfully tested against notoriously aggressive tiger sharks. They weren't being worn by humans during that test, but the researchers remain confident.

"We now know what these big predatory sharks can see, and what we have done is convert that science into a marketable technology," says Hamish Jolly, a designer with Shark Attack Mitigation Systems. "We have converted that into patents that we know will hide [wearers] or present wearers as not shark food."

Source: Guardian

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