Scientists Develop 'Shark-Proof' Wetsuit Materials To Withstand Great White Bites
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The materials - tested by Flinders University marine researchers - could help reduce injuries and blood loss sustained by shark bites.
Two ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene fibres (UHMWPE) were incorporated with neoprene and their resistance to shark bites was compared with standard neoprene without protective layers.
The study - published in journal PLOS ONE - found that the new fabrics were more resistant to lacerations. In total, 10 variants of the two fabrics were trialled in laboratory tests, puncture and laceration tests and out in the field/sea on actual great white sharks.
The force of the shark bites was also measured using load sensors placed between steel plates surrounded by foam. The results showed that more force was required to puncture the new materials, while the punctures that were sustained on the new materials were shorter and shallower than those on the standard neoprene.
Flinders University Associate Professor Charlie Huveneers, from the Southern Shark Ecology Group, said the development of lightweight technologies has broadened possibilities in the world of wetsuits.
He said: "The aim of this study was to assess the ability of new fabrics incorporated into neoprene to reduce injuries from white shark bites. We tested the fabric on white sharks because it is the species responsible for the most fatalities from shark bites.
"Our results showed that both fabrics tested may provide some protection against shark bite and could be used as part of a shark bite mitigation strategy."
While the results were undeniably positive, there is still further research to be done - so don't buy a UHMWPE 'shark-proof' wetsuit and go starting on a great white thinking you're invincible, 'cause it will definitely still be the bookie's favourite.
Professor Huveneers added: "We found that the new fabrics were more resistant to puncture, laceration, and bites from white sharks than standard neoprene.
"Although these fabrics may reduce blood loss resulting from a shark bite, further research is needed to measure the magnitude of injury to human flesh."
The power of a great white shark bite was laid bare on National Geographic WILD show Cannibal Sharks. In it, rare footage shows two great whites can be seen ripping chunks out of each other in a frenzied attack.
Professor Mark Meekan explains on the programme that an increase in shark-on-shark attacks may be as a result of vulnerable sharks sending out distress signals after being trapped in safety nets or caught on baited hooks.