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Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2000 Sep;21(3):225-9.

Pathologic features of fatal shark attacks.

Author information

  • 1Forensic Science Centre, University of Adelaide, South Australia. byard01@forensic.sa.gov.au

Abstract

To examine the pattern of injuries in cases of fatal shark attack in South Australian waters, the authors examined the files of their institution for all cases of shark attack in which full autopsies had been performed over the past 25 years, from 1974 to 1998. Of the seven deaths attributed to shark attack during this period, full autopsies were performed in only two cases. In the remaining five cases, bodies either had not been found or were incomplete. Case 1 was a 27-year-old male surfer who had been attacked by a shark. At autopsy, the main areas of injury involved the right thigh, which displayed characteristic teeth marks, extensive soft tissue damage, and incision of the femoral artery. There were also incised wounds of the right wrist. Bony injury was minimal, and no shark teeth were recovered. Case 2 was a 26-year-old male diver who had been attacked by a shark. At autopsy, the main areas of injury involved the left thigh and lower leg, which displayed characteristic teeth marks, extensive soft tissue damage, and incised wounds of the femoral artery and vein. There was also soft tissue trauma to the left wrist, with transection of the radial artery and vein. Bony injury was minimal, and no shark teeth were recovered. In both cases, death resulted from exsanguination following a similar pattern of soft tissue and vascular damage to a leg and arm. This type of injury is in keeping with predator attack from underneath or behind, with the most severe injuries involving one leg. Less severe injuries to the arms may have occurred during the ensuing struggle. Reconstruction of the damaged limb in case 2 by sewing together skin, soft tissue, and muscle bundles not only revealed that no soft tissue was missing but also gave a clearer picture of the pattern of teeth marks, direction of the attack, and species of predator.

PMID:
10990281
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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