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Anti-shark suits could make surfers an unappealing snack


As well as a bold fashion choice, a new line of strategically colored striped and patchy neoprene wetsuits could give divers and snorkelers an as unappetizing appearance — at least to sharks.

"Divert" and "Elude" are the official names of the designs from Australian manufacturer Radiator, though the cold black eyes of a shark may read them as simply, "Tastes Bad" and "Invisible." Both cost about $460.


Elude, with patches of blue and blue-green (or blue-and-white) patterning, is designed to camouflage a diver or snorkeler in the water. The Diverter is a pungent black and white striped garment that's meant to confuse the shark when it gets close.

The suits were conceived in research labs at the Ocean Institute at the University of Western Australia, and based on the observations that sharks are sensitive to visual cues in the last moments before they lunge.

"Many animals are repelled by a striped pattern which indicates the potential prey is unsafe to eat," Shaun Collin, part of the team that designed the suit at UWA told BBC News. At the very least, the suits might buy the swimmer some time to make a getaway.

Wearing a suit is all the more important if your diving companion is wearing one, the Shark Mitigation experts say: if your companion's underwater attire successfully confuses the shark, "then it may turn to you."

But some say the suits might just make you look like tastier morsel.

"That striped suit that is supposed to look like a lionfish is about as nice a thing as you can do to attract a shark, because of the contrast between dark and light," George Burgess, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research told National Geographic.

Radiator warns that though the suits have been tested, the research is ongoing. For example, current tests have been carried out in clear water, but the suits' effectiveness in deeper, murkier water remains to be seen. If you see a shark, they explain on their website, the best advice still is: Leave!

Before you pull out your credit card, it may be wise to note that toilets have a better track record for maiming humans that sharks do. And as for whether the suits will protect you against Sharknado? Well, that's anybody's guess.

Nidhi Subbaraman writes about technology and science. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.