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Cookie-cutter sharks sink inflatable catamaran in Australia



The dramatic ocean saga that this week saved three men from a sinking inflatable catamaran off the coast of Australia has been blamed on an unusual culprit: a small cigar-shaped shark that leaves wounds so perfectly round that ‘it’s called the cookie cutter.

The sailors, two Russians and a Frenchman, were pulled from the sea on Wednesday as they headed for the city of Cairns in northeastern Australia. from Vanuatu, a remote Pacific nation, authorities said.

In an Instagram post after the rescue, the group said the attacks were carried out by cookie cutter sharks, which damaged the boat’s left aft balloon on Monday and left it “completely submerged underwater”. The group lasted another day – until the cookie cutters attacked again on Tuesday night, this time biting the ball right.

The attacks left their inflatable boat partially sunk, prompting them to issue a distress call to nearby vessels in the early hours of Wednesday. The crew and their belongings were rescued by the freighter Dugong Ace – but the sinking catamaran was abandoned in the ocean, the Instagram post says.

“They’re chasing inflatable boats, and (our ship) just had a lot of holes and started sinking,” one of the sailors, Evgeny Kovalevskiy, told CNN affiliate Nine News in a video after the rescue.

The crew were trying to become the first to circumnavigate the world in an inflatable boat and they would assess how to continue that journey after arriving in Brisbane later on Thursday, Kovalevskiy added.

Unlike great white sharks or hammerhead sharks, cookie cutter sharks are not generally associated with attacks on the high seas. The cookie cutter, also known as the cigar shark, is more than 10 times smaller than a great white, averaging between 1 and 1.4 feet (0.3 to 0.42 meters).

Despite its small size, the cookie cutter (Isistius brasiliensis) has an appetite for large prey — typically targeting seals, whales and dolphins, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History.

It is its unique feeding method that earned it its name: First, the shark attracts prey with its shiny underside, which can deceptively resemble small fish in the depths of the ocean.

When prey is near, the shark then uses its sucking lips and sharp upper teeth to attach itself to the larger animal. Then, it rotates its body – using its largest serrated lower teeth to cut through a biscuit-shaped piece of flesh, leaving a circular wound in the prey’s body, according to the museum.

Even submarines have been attacked before, with round pieces torn from their sonar dome.

The museum added that due to its size and deep water habits, the cookie cutter is not considered a threat to humans. Cookie cutter sharks have only been involved in four confirmed, unprovoked bites, all of which occurred in Hawaii, he said, citing the International Shark Attack File.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said in a statement on Wednesday that “a large part” of the inflatable boat’s hull was missing when it was found.

“There are many reasons why ships are attacked by sharks. However, the motivations of these sharks are unclear,” said AMSA manager Joe Zeller.

The catamaran crew “were very happy to have been rescued and they are all in good health”, he added.