Thanks to their “tough guy” appearance, substantial size, and cute, adorable flippers, sharks have long been considered one of the most “huggable” animals of the sea. Indeed, who among us hasn’t ever thought about wrapping our arms around the warm, inviting cartilage of a Great White shark after a bad day at work or unsuccessful treasure hunt at the bottom of the sea?
But could those shark hugs be causing more damage than good? Potentially. A new study conducted by researchers at the University of California-Riverside suggests that hugging sharks may be hazardous to your health.
In the study, participants were dropped into the Pacific Ocean and asked to embrace a shark for a “full 90 seconds.” Surprisingly, 99 percent of the participants reported serious side effects following their hugs. These side effects included long, jagged flesh wounds, lost limbs and, in severe cases, even death.
In order to entice the sharks into showing up and receiving their hugs, scientists asked each participant in the group to wear a warm, fuzzy sweater. Also, a necklace composed of bloody fish chum.
To eliminate bias and provide a point for comparison, a control group of participants was asked to hug a stuffed placebo shark located in the break room of the UC-Riverside science lab. In sharp contrast, only one participant in this group was injured, and even that was chalked up to external variables (he slipped on a grape).
In order to verify the results of the experiment, the research team repeated the study several times over. Each time, the results were similarly dismal.
Now that the team has identified a potential link between shark hugs and health risks, the next step is to figure out the actual root cause. Of the many possibilities identified by the team, Dr. Pete Talborn, lead researcher for the study, has a “sneaking suspicion” that it “has something to do with radioactive plutonium injected into the sharks by communist Russia.”
Other potential, though less likely causes suggested by the team include flesh-eating bacteria, alien mind control, and “poisonous jellyfish disguised in shark costumes.”
Until further research is conducted, experts suggest that people refrain from hugging any and all types of sharks. However, they do note that the study only tested full-on two-armed hugs. As such, side hugs and one-armed lean-in hugs may not be harmful.
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