Skeletal Indicators of Shark Feeding on Human Remains

Published on 02. May 2017

Skeletal Indicators of Shark Feeding on Human Remains: Evidence from Florida Forensic Anthropology Cases

Michala K. Stock M.A., Allysha P. Winburn M.A., George H. Burgess M.


This research examines a series of six Florida forensic anthropology cases that exhibit taphonomic evidence of marine deposition and shark-feeding activities. In each case, we analyzed patterns of trauma/damage on the skeletal remains (e.g., sharp-force bone gouges and punctures) and possible mechanisms by which they were inflicted during shark predation/scavenging. In some cases, shark teeth were embedded in the remains; in the absence of this evidence, we measured interdental distance from defects in the bone to estimate shark body length, as well as to draw inferences about the potential species responsible. We discuss similarities and differences among the cases and make comparisons to literature documenting diagnostic shark-inflicted damage to human remains from nearby regions. We find that the majority of cases potentially involve bull or tiger sharks scavenging the remains of previously deceased, adult male individuals. This scavenging results in a distinctive taphonomic signature including incised gouges in cortical bone.

Journal of Forensic Sciences. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.13470



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