(Phys.org) "Never turn your back on a shark" is the take home message from an article published in Springer's journal Animal Cognition. Erich Ritter of the Shark Research Institute and Raid Amin of the University of West Florida in the US contend that sharks can comprehend body orientation and therefore know whether humans are facing them or not. This ability helps sharks to approach and possibly attack their prey from the blind side – a technique they prefer.
To hunt successfully a predator needs to correctly perceive the body form, size and movement of its potential prey. Studies confirm this is also true when sharks hunt. Descriptions of a shark's approach to typical prey, as well as humans, indicate that these predatory fish prefer to avoid the field of vision. In other words, a shark would tend to approach a person from behind. These observations underlie the yet-untested assumption that sharks are able to identify human body orientation and can use such information in a self-serving manner.