A tidbit often trotted out to allay the anxiety of those who decline to so much as dip their toes in the ocean for fear of shark attack is that far more people die from insect stings each year than from man-eating fish.
The difference being, of course, that shark attacks generate considerable media attention while insect stings, even when they cause death, rarely make more than local news.
Not so in China, where more than two dozen people were recently killed and hundreds more injured in a wave of attacks by giant hornets.
Victims described being chased for a thousand feet or more by the creatures and stung as many as 200 times, according to The Guardian.
The culprit appears to be the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia), which grows up to two inches long with a quarter-inch sting.
It is the world’s largest hornet and is known colloquially as the “yak-killer hornet.”
The Asian giant hornet injects a particularly potent venom that can damage tissue. Its sting can lead to anaphylactic shock and renal failure.
Perhaps not surprising to any who suffers from galeophobia, researchers now believe great white sharks eat far more than previously thought.
An Australian study published this week found that great white sharks, the world’s largest predatory fish, eat three to four times more food than once believed.
That’s considerably more than the findings of a 1982 US research team. Then, it was estimated that a meal of approximately 66 pounds of mammal blubber could sustain a 2,160-pound shark for approximately six weeks, according to the website Real Clear Science.
However, University of Tasmania researchers reported this week that 66 pounds of blubber was only enough to glut a great white for about two weeks, according to a study published in Scientific Reports on the nature.com website.
Researchers tagged a dozen great white sharks off the coast of the Neptune Islands off South Australia and calculated their metabolic rate derived from swimming speeds, according to Agence France-Presse.
They then worked out how much energy the sharks burned and how much food they required.
Those afraid to so much as set a toe in the ocean for fear of sharks are often told that far more people die annually from reactions to stings from insects than are claimed by the bite of Jaws.
Indeed, the average number of fatalities worldwide per year between 2001 and 2010 from unprovoked shark attacks was 4.4, according to the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History.
Conversely, between 1979 and 1990 there were 718 venomous deaths – mostly from bees and wasps – in the United States alone, according to the World Health Organization. That’s nearly 60 deaths annually in that period, according to the Toledo Blade.
Yet, as the Blade pointed out, no one talks about death, or potential death, from the sting of bees, hornets or even fire ants, all of which can bring on anaphylactic shock for those with allergies to insect venom.
And while shark attacks can occur just about anywhere in the coastal United States, California seems to get its fair share of publicity as a hotspot for such incidents.
But as the above map shows, there have been relatively few shark attacks in California over the past 160-plus years, particularly when one considers the millions of people who flock to the Golden State’s beaches each year to swim, surf, snorkel and whatnot in its waters.
One of the largest Great White sharks ever recorded was caught this past weekend off the coast of Mexico, a 20-foot monster that weighed approximately 2,000 pounds.
The Great White was hauled up by two commercial fishermen in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, apparently in a net, according to local news reports.
The fishermen had no idea they’d captured the massive shark until it was brought to the surface, believing instead they had merely netted a large haul of smaller fish, one of them said in an interview with Pisces Sportfishing, which is located in the Baja California resort city of Cabo San Lucas.
The publication identified the two fisherman as only Guadalupe and Baltazar.
The shark was dead when it was brought to the surface.
“The fishermen, whose skiff measures 22 feet and is powered by a 75-horsepower outboard, required an hour to tow the carcass two miles to the coast,” according to GrindTV.com. “About 50 people helped drag the behemoth onto dry sand.
The Great White was measured at six meters long, or 19.8 feet.