Sure, Pat That Nose— It's Only a Great White
The feared predator is sociable, curious, and will let you ride its fin
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 1, 2008 8:53 PM CDT
A great white shark swims around the boat during a shark festival in Gansbaai, South Africa, the self-proclaimed "Great White Capital of the world."   (AP Photo/Obed Zilwa)
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(Newser) – Want to pat a great white shark's nose? Or ride its fin for 100 yards? Experts say the much-feared predators are so sociable and curious, you can swim with them or even tread water by their open jaws. "Unlike most fish, white sharks are intelligent, highly inquisitive creatures," one expert tells Paul Raffaele for his worldwide Smithsonian survey.

Experts have long tried to debunk Jaws—and its image of an underwater killing machine—but now say great whites don't even attack: Most of the 237 maulings on record were just displays of curiosity gone wrong. The sharks also hunt in cooperative packs and stop to observe new things. Still nervous among them, Raffaele writes that one shark “skirts the boat, swims to the other side, turns and—I swear—looks me straight in the eye.”