Thursday, December 12, 2013

Paper - barf!

Would you hand your money to this man?

Did you see the headlines - as in here?

And I thought those were only Accidents, as per this pseudoscientific snake oil I've found on the SharkSkool webpage?

Stupid me, I went and got myself the paper.
A friendly researcher writes.
This incredibly poorly-written paper is definitely purely meant to serve as another "tick-mark" under Ritter's name. 
There seems to be so much wrong with this "experiment" that "getting published again" is the only reason that I can see behind this paper. 

My favorite line is "To better understand the relationship between sharks and humans, additional studies, like the one presented here, are a priority." 
I would really love to hear Ritter's ideas on just how exactly this can help us understand our interactions with sharks, and WHY studies like this one should ever be a priority! 

Sharks like to approach from behind, great, on to the next obvious statement.
This is merely the latest in a whole series of amateurish fluff (shark attack rates huh - my-oh-my...) originating from the cooperation of the world's only and thus most important sharkxpert and self professed guru of pseudoscience human-Shark interactions, or whatever, with this dude and with the Jersey girl who was likely conned into squandering (even more) donor money in exchange for some perceived and urgently needed academic legitimacy - not!

So what can I say about this stupidity.
I was going to review it in detail but quite frankly, it's so bad that it's really not worth the effort - and incidentally, talk about a simply epic failure of peer review!

Only this.
Let's assume for the sake of the argument that this was a credible and rigorous experiment (it was not!), and let's focus on the conclusions that in brief consist in the observation that those tested Caribbean Reefies would preferably approach divers from behind, with older animals being more wary and/or wily.
  • Dooh.
    Every single Shark I've ever encountered knew exactly when I was looking at it, and has always established eye contact - and so did every single Fish! Ask any spearo how wily those Fishes are, and how they instantly perceive being at the center of attention  - and ask any Shark diver how easily one can stare away Sharks, and how Sharks trying to sneak in from behind will instantly veer away when one looks at them!
    That's what terrestrial and marine predators and prey do.
    They keep an eye on each other, with the predators trying to catch their prey unawares, and the prey trying not to get surprised - and to depict this trivial observation as a great discovery is quite frankly pathetic!
  • And the great unexplained mystery, and I cite?
    The way predators stalk their prey or sneak up on them is often linked with the avoidance of visual contact with the quarry.
    Such a theory demands that a predator is capable of locating the prey’s eyes or at least recognizing its viewing direction. Neither can be assumed for sharks—as the stalkers—in the vicinity of humans, especially in our design, since the chosen human position did not resemble any known prey for any shark species. Although it cannot be excluded that sharks might still be able to make a comparison to a prey species and act on it, our results do not offer explanations as to what that clue might be. Ritter and Amin (2012) showed that human presence does affect the swim behavior of sharks and that larger animals seem to be more cautious in the vicinity of humans than smaller animals. Our results are consistent with this interpretation, showing a significant preference of the larger animals to approach test-subjects via their blind areas.

    Since sharks are evolutionarily more distant from mammals than birds, can it be concluded that human gaze might not be detectable at all and that something entirely different is used by sharks to comprehend a person’s viewing direction?
    A satisfactory answer cannot be given since the shark’s perception and capability of sensory organs are much different from both birds and mammals. Similarly, the different medium could also be of importance. Characteristics of water as a solvent could facilitate a so far unknown human emission that might not carry as well in air.

    Could face masks have an effect in choosing the approach direction?
    As with bubbles, such would not be detectable should the shark be too far away. Likewise, a shark would need to understand where the eyes of a person are located, hence not just to know the body proportions be known but also how to read these proportions when presented in a kneeling object.
    A so far unknown human emission.
    Sez the great Shark shaman!

    How about this for an explanation.
    These are not naive Sharks that have never seen divers - the location of the experiment is in the Northern Abaco Islands, Bahamas = the famous Walker's Cay where literally thousands upon thousands of divers have interacted with Caribbean Reefies!
    For the newbies among you: this was that dive - much copied but never equaled!

    Think that those Sharks don't know divers?
    Think that they've not observed us like we've observed them, that they're not able to detect our orientation and what we are doing even from a distance, and that they cannot approach us from behind if they wish to do so - with the older and more experienced ones being more wily whilst the younger ones are still learning the ropes?
    Hell, the researchers tell us that their cognitive and above all, their learning faculties are impressive, and the Shark diving operators who interact with them on a daily basis will confirm that they even recognize individual people!
    This is so trivial to be painful!
All I really wanted to say was, caveat emptor - whilst global Shark populations are going to shit, Ritter and the SRI continue to squander donor money on amateurish and utterly useless experiments.
And if you're not careful, that money may well be yours!

To be continued no doubt!


Lapsed Atheist said...

Looks like you are going to need a new category for your annual summing up:-

How about:-

The worst so-called scientific paper published in a scientific journal worldwide on any subject in 2013 including and worse even than Prang H. and Studebaker K.'s (2013) Parthenogenesis among Nuns -- documented cases of the miraculous in 'Science for Catholics' The Vatican.

DaShark said...

Done! :)