Why Are Sharks Sinking Their Teeth into the Internet? We Asked a Shark Expert to Explain.

by Owen James Burke

shark

Screenshot from Lanca VideosHD’s video (below)

Are sharks leading a crusade against the internet? The world should only be so fortunate. But why then, are sharks sinking their teeth into the world wide web? We asked a shark expert at the South Carolina Aquarium.

According to fiberoptic cable operator Asia-America Gateway (AAG) three mysterious ruptures have been reported along their 12,400+ mile (20,000km) line in the past year, all in waters offshore of Ba Ria in the Vung Tau Province of Vietnam. Until recently, explanatory theories have ranged from accidentally snagged anchors to malicious intent.

A recent surveillance video recording from this past summer shed some light on the mystery, which depicted a shark coyly approaching the cable to take what appears to be a very calculated bite, and many are beginning to wonder whether they’ve been the culprits all along. But then why would a shark want to bite a fiberoptic cable — something that in no way visibly resembles its regular prey — in the first place?

“That behavior is not a complete surprise,” South Carolina Aquarium Shark Expert Arnold Postell tells us. “Sharks  have the ability to detect electromagnetic fields with their Ampullae of Lorenzini. These are “jelly” filled pores at the tip of the nose/snout of elasmobranchs designed to pick up minute electric pulses put off by muscle contractions of their prey. The internet cables must put off enough of an electric field that the sharks detect and ‘test’ if it is food.”

So even though something so otherworldly by sight that it couldn’t be food, the electric field that the cable gives off is so similar to that of a shoal of fish that the shark bypasses its visionary senses and relies more heavily on its dominant electromagnetic sensors.

The cables, which are not made of copper but fragile glass, do have existing protective materials which are designed to prevent them from more obvious damage, but now they’ll have to be shark-proofed. In the wake of this video, Google has already decided to invest in a ‘Kevlar-like’ coating to better safeguard them from sharks, and whatever other marine life might be attempting to prey on — or sabotage — our beloved interweb. — OJB

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