Claim: Photograph shows a pair of 12-year-old surfers photobombed by a shark.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, December 2013]
Origins: Back in 2003, a photograph seemingly displaying a surfer engaged in a close encounter with a shark hit the online world big time (although the photo in question was later proved to have actually captured an image of a dolphin, not a shark.) That phenomenon repeated itself ten years later in another case that saw the viral circulation of a similar "surfer vs. shark"
On the early afternoon of
That photograph of a close encounter of the marine kind was spread widely online after it was posted on Facebook with the comment "Another beautiful day at the beach. Big waves and apparently Big Fish! (Look into wave to right of Quinn Emerson, who's out catching a few!)" Emerson told a Los Angeles television news station that "I'm not sure what it was, but it definitely scared me when I thought it might be a shark."
The possibility of encountering sharks in those waters was certainly a plausible one, as the Los Angeles Times had noted just a few weeks earlier that Manhattan Beach is one of the California coastal areas that has seen a significant increase in shark sightings in the last few years:
Many of the great whites appear to be juveniles learning to feed and fend for themselves, said Chris Lowe, a marine biology professor and leader of the research Shark Lab at Cal State Long Beach.
Researchers are still trying to determine why the young sharks have been drawn to the El Porto area — perhaps warmer temperatures or a larger feeding pool. Through tagging and other monitoring methods, researchers hope to have more of an answer by next year.
But one thing is clear: Experts have noticed an increase in shark sightings off beaches in Manhattan, Redondo and Ventura over the last few years. That may be alarming for some, but it's a welcome development for wildlife researchers who say it's a sign of a healthy rebound for marine life after California legislators prohibited the use of gill nets for fishing in 1990.
The difference in the experts' opinions centers on how they view the tail.
"This is not a #shark photobombing kids. This is a dolphin," Shiffman tweeted. Shiffman, a recognized expert on great white sharks, noted in a Facebook posting that "the tail is flat," like a dolphin and unlike a shark.
But in an interview with CNN, Kurr concluded it was "a juvenile great white shark about
"I would say based on the shape of the dorsal fin, which is more straight, that shows me it's a great white shark," Kurr said. "Plus, the fact that that particular beach has become the epicenter for white shark activity, I would say it's definitely a white shark."
There are plenty of great white sharks in the southern California surf, but they pose no danger to beachgoers, according to Randy Hamilton, a shark expert with California's Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Last updated: 1 January 2014
Banks, Alicia. "Great White Shark Sightings Thrilling, But Also a Good Sign for Species." Los Angeles Times. 3 December 2013. Taylor, Doris. "Experts Debate Beach Photobomber: Shark or Dolphin?" WTKR-TV [Hampton Roads, VA]. 30 December 2013. CBS News. "Did Shark Photobomb Calif. Family Photo?" 30 December 2013. KTLA-TV [Los Angeles]. "Photo Captures Apparent Encounter with Shark at Manhattan Beach." 28 December 2013.