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Dolphins in the water don't mean you are safe from sharks

9:00 AM, Aug 12, 2013   |    comments
Dr. Quincy Gibson
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- You might feel safe when you see dolphins while swimming in the water. However, seeing the animal doesn't mean you are safe.

Dr. Quincy Gibson a coastal behavior biologist at the University of North Florida has studied the mammals since 2001 in many different habitats worldwide. "So I would say that if you were a surfer and you are out in the water and you see dolphins I wouldn't take that for granted that there are no sharks there," Gibson said.

Dolphins are wild animals just like sharks, and often times their habitats overlap.

"They [the public] have this impression that there are not sharks there. But, it is a misconception. In the since that dolphins and sharks are overlapping quite a bit in their habitat," said Gibson.

Dolphins and sharks live in the same environment peacefully and aggressively. Their environments don't necessarily overlap because of they eat the same food source.

"Here in the St. Johns River and the coast along the Atlantic Coast of Florida I don't necessarily know what the dolphins are eating," said Gibson. "But, they are most likely eating the same type of prey species that humans are eating, for example the mullet and the red fish."

You may not be able to tell when dolphins are in the water when they don't feel threatened by the sharks.

"In some cases if the dolphins don't feel threatened by the presence of the shark they are not going to respond. You wouldn't even know if the sharks and the dolphins were close to one another," Gibson explains.

However, there are different signs that you may watch for to give an idea on when it is a good time to get out of the water. Gibson also says that these signs just depend if the dolphin feel threatened by the sharks.

Gibson says, "If the dolphins do feel threatened their visible signs for example dolphins will often tighten up in their groups, they will get really close with one another and they will start to splash quite a bit. So they will use their tails as a defense against a shark attack."

Along with these signs it is important to remember that dolphins are wild animals too. Gibson says that if they perceive you as a threat they have sharp teeth and they can bit just as easily as a shark could.

It is relatively rare for dolphins to attack people, Gibson urges to be aware of your environment and don't take anything for granted.

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