DNA Used to Identify Sand Tiger Shark Responsible for July Fire Island Shark Attack
Researchers have concluded a tiger shark is responsible for biting the 13-year-old boy off Fire Island’s National Seashore back in July, causing surrounding beaches to be closed temporarily. A 12-year-old girl was also bitten within minutes of the boy at a Fire Island beach about four miles away.
After the bites, program manager for the shark research center, Lindsay French, had the tooth that bit the boy’s leg sent in to the University of Florida for DNA analysis. This is the first time a shark was identified by using DNA after an attack.
From there, researchers drew comparisons of the tooth’s DNA to a genetic dataset of sharks to make the conclusion that it was a tiger shark that bit the boy. The girl who was bit recalled seeing a 3 to 4-foot-long fish, orange or brown in color with a dorsal fin.
Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, thinks the bites that sent a chill through Fire Island this past summer were both most likely accidental. Naylor thinks the sharks were following schools of fish and accidentally bit their victims. He said the sharks were likely just as “petrified” as the boy and girl who were bit.
“Perhaps incorrectly, I’m putting these in the bin of naive young sharks,” Naylor told NBC. “I’m sure the children who were bitten were petrified, but the sharks probably were, too.”
Naylor said tiger sharks rarely bite humans, so this attack was uncommon. The last time a tiger shark bite was reported was back in 1988.
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