July 20, 2013
Australian Researchers Develop First-Ever Shark-Repellant Wetsuits
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Researchers from the University of Western Australia (UWA) Oceans Institute have joined forces with a commercial firm to develop what are being hailed as the world's first anti-shark wetsuits.
In response to a growing number of shark sightings and attacks in Australia and around the world, UWA Associate Professor Nathan Hart and Winthrop Professor Shaun Collin joined forces with designers from Shark Attack Mitigation Systems (SAMS) to create the suits.
"Although sharks use a number of senses to locate prey, it is known that vision is the crucial sense in the final stage of an attack. By disrupting a shark's visual perception, an attack can either be diverted altogether or at least delayed to allow time to exit the water," the company explained on its website. "SAMS has been working with the university for a number years and has translated the scientific data into a range of shark deterrent designs."
According to Sarah Griffiths of the Daily Mail, SAMS and the UWA researchers have developed two different kinds of wetsuits. One contains a blue pattern which cannot be detected by the color-blind creatures, while the other features a series of white stripes meant to mimic the colors of poisonous fish in order to frighten off the potential predators.
The first wetsuit, which is known as the "cryptic" wetsuit, was designed primarily for divers while the other, the "warning" wetsuit, was geared more towards swimmers and surfers, according to The West Australian reporter Angela Pownall. Both wetsuits are based upon recent scientific discoveries about how different types of sharks detect and see prey, and their development came on the heels of five shark-related deaths in two years in Western Australia.
"The two design variations either present the wearer as potentially dangerous and unpalatable to a shark, or make it very difficult for the shark to see the wearer in the water," SAMS said. "The shark deterrent technology can be applied to products such as wetsuits, skins and stickers for diving air tanks, surfboards, kayaks, skis and more."
In a statement, SAMS founder and director Hamish Jolly said that the company cannot guarantee that the suits would provide "failsafe protection" against shark attacks, he noted that initial tests conducted in oceans and with wild sharks had produced "extraordinary" results. "We believe they certainly can assist without any additional equipment or cost other than what is already being used," he added.
Likewise, Professor Collin said, "We believe that an understanding of the basic neurobiology of the sensory capabilities of sharks is essential to translating this knowledge into ways to help the public reduce the risk of shark attacks." He and his colleagues report that the suits will continue to be tested, but that a license for use of the patented technology had been issued to Australian wetsuit retailer Radiator.