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Here’s how to tame a shark… or mate with one, if you do it wrong

Tame a shark

Cristina Zenato demonstrates how to tame a shark through a process called “tonic immobility,” calming one by basically petting it into submission.

It turns out that sharks are just like puppies. Vicious puppies with razor-sharp teeth that go berserk at the hint of blood, but still. And like puppies, there is a way to make some sharks become completely docile when you pet them.

The phenomenon is called a “tonic state,” or “tonic immobility,” according to Many animals have a similar response to physical stimuli, but it is pronounced with sharks. Plus, it isn’t like an insect can rip your arm off, so the video below is especially astounding.

Marine biologists aren’t entirely sure why this method of taming a shark works, but it does. Rubbing its nose can elicit a gentle response while flipping them on their back can cause a temporary paralysis. Initially, this was thought to be a fear response of some kind, but the current thinking is that it may actually be related to facilitating mating.

Hopefully, for Cristina Zenato, the diver featured in the video, that isn’t the case. If so, she is in for a very bad day.

When a shark mates, the male uses its teeth to grab the female by her fins. Because of that fairly horrible way of dating, the female sharks have thicker skin. If the female decides to say no, she needs to fight her way free of the male shark’s toothy grip.

In the video, Zenato shows no fear. The shark she is petting is female though, and it looks like it really likes the nose scratching – so much so that it nudges Zenato’s hand for more. Female sharks have plenty of nerves in the nose, which is where the story of how you can get away from a shark by punching it in the nose came from (pro tip: it could work, but God help you if you miss). When a female shark flips over, it is thought to do so as a sign of submission to a male suitor.

Check out how it’s done in the video below. Just be sure you know what you’re doing. If you do it too well, it could become a horror show for the ages.



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Founder and DBP boss. Ryan likes the Kansas Jayhawks, long walks on the beach, and high fiving unsuspecting people.
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