NewsFormer NASA engineer debunks shark myths in stunning experiment

Former NASA engineer debunks shark myths in stunning experiment

Testing if Sharks Can Smell a Drop of Blood
Testing if Sharks Can Smell a Drop of Blood
Images source: © Youtube | Mark Rober

12:59 PM EDT, May 13, 2024

Mark Rober, a former NASA engineer known to many for his engaging YouTube experiments, decided to challenge a widely held stereotype about sharks fueled by the children's movie Finding Nemo. Specifically, he aimed to test whether sharks could detect the scent of blood from a mile away.

The memorable scene in "Finding Nemo," where Bruce, the great white shark, goes into a frenzy upon smelling a drop of Dory's blood, has captured the imagination of more than just the movie's fans for years.

To put this myth to the test, Rober, who has transitioned from NASA engineering to YouTube stardom, embarked on a mission to discover the truth.

Marine biologist Luke Tipple, 44, ventured 18 miles off the coast of the Bahamas, a region known for its shark population, to conduct their experiment.

Rober reassured his audience that he had developed a "solid testing procedure" and created "NASA-grade equipment" to conclusively determine whether sharks genuinely react as dramatically to the scent of human blood as depicted in myths and movies.

My goal was to measure how far sharks can detect a single drop of blood in the water. However, I first wanted to ascertain whether they indeed show a preference for blood over other scents," Rober explained regarding his experiment.

The setup involved four surfboards, each releasing two gallons of different liquids: fish oil, cow blood, seawater, and urine into the ocean over an hour. From their boat, Mark and Luke monitored which surfboards attracted sharks.

Interestingly, four sharks were drawn to the fish oil; none showed interest in the urine, but the board with cow blood attracted an astonishing 41 sharks. Though the experiment may not meet the stringent criteria of a scientific study, it indicated that blood, among all tested scents, was the most fascinating to sharks, debunking the myth that urine attracts them.

In a subsequent part of the experiment, Rober tested the sharks' reactions to surfboards leaking human blood. One board emitted a drop of blood per minute, and the other one drop every four seconds. Surprisingly, within an hour, no sharks approached either board.

This experiment wasn't flawless, but it's fair to conclude that if no shark showed interest in a board leaking 15 drops of human blood per minute in shark-infested waters, minor cuts or scratches likely pose no increased danger," the engineer summarized.
Related content