Are sharks really fiercely cunning? Or do they respond to human affection? One person who's convinced they're responsive is Phyllis Trueluck -- and she has firsthand experience in the subject.
Phillis works at Sea World of Florida, Where, surrounded by a protective cage , she regularly joins the sharks in the pool. Her job is to identify the various species using an under- water microphone for a theater audience looking on from behind thick glass walls. She admires the powerful yet extraordinarily graceful fish and feels a growing affection for those that share the pool with her.
Several of the sharks, now used to her presence, swim by and rub themselves on the cage. "I long to reach out and touch them," Phyllis says, but her instructions are to do no such thing.
In contrast, those who collect shark specimens for the aquarium do stroke the newly captured sharks and for good reason. Despite their awesome power, sharks are fragile and can damage themselves while being transported. So, while the shark is totally submerged in his holding tank, the water is shallow enough for the handlers to stroke and caress him. This has a reassuring and relaxing affect on the shark, indicating that even an animal considered low on the intelligence scale responds positively to the warmth of love.
This show of affection on the part of the marine biologists "is very genuine, " says Phyllis. "They really do feel for them and I can understand it because I now feel the same way about the sharks in my tank."
Sharks do indeed possess the physical capability to drive man literally from the water. But man does not feature high on the shark's menu. Attacks are rare. The shark has remained virtually unchanged for the past 340 million years , its purpose always to keep the seas clean; to remove the injured from the water. In short it is "the garbageman of the sea," according to Phyllis. It reacts instinctively, striking out at erratic movements that suggest an injured fish.
Knowing this, Phyllis would move only in slow, deliberate movements if ever she suspected a shark to be in the vicinity. "Controlled movements do not ring a shark's dinner bell," she says. "Erratic, frenzied movements do." Even in the cage her hand and arm movements are deliberate.