How Does a Shark Smell Blood From Miles Away?


A Strong Attractant

The blood scent is one of the strongest attractants in the animal kingdom, and for sharks it is no different. They have the ability to detect the scent of blood even in very tiny quantities from quite a distance. Plus, sharks can swim into relatively shallow waters to get a shot at their prey, which can make them rather intimidating on the beach front. Sharks are, however, limited by distance and the shark’s speed while swimming, which varies according to the size of the shark.

Diffusion and Water Currents

Sharks receive scent through water by two methods, diffusion and water currents. The diffusion method is very slow, and involves the blood molecules slowly dispersing through the water, spreading and being diluted with the water as it moves away from its starting point. The water current method involves the blood being moved by the movement of the water. This is the faster method for scent to travel through water. Depending on how fast the water is moving, the scent of blood could reach a shark anywhere from one minute to a dozen or more minutes, depending on how far distant the shark is.

Distance Has an Effect on The Shark's Sense of Smell

The only time a shark will instantly react to the smell of blood is if that shark is in the immediate vicinity of the blood spill. Most of the time it takes several minutes for the shark to smell the blood and several more minutes for it to arrive at the spot of the spill. Sharks will swim into the current where they detect the odor of blood. From a mile away this is very difficult for the shark and it will likely not find the blood scent in the first place but from a much shorter distance, say a quarter of a mile, the shark has a decent shot at picking up a strong scent. The hunting shark will swim in spirals, thereby eliminating the currents that don’t carry the scent of blood and following those that do.

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