A 16-year-old girl killed in a shark attack was swimming in a river, not the ocean. Bull sharks, considered by some experts to be the most dangerous, are the few species that swim in fresh water.

Photo of a bull shark taken during a diving expedition at Tiger Beach, Bahamas.Carlos Grillo/Getty Images

  • A Perth teenager was killed by a shark after he jumped into a river to swim with dolphins, officials said.

  • Officials believe it was a bull shark, a species known for its aggressiveness and ability to swim in fresh water.

  • Bull sharks have been documented traveling up the Mississippi River to Illinois.

Although shark attacks are rare, they most often occur in the ocean, off the coast of beach destinations like Florida. But when a 16-year-old girl in Australia was killed in a shark attack on Saturday, she wasn’t swimming in the ocean.

Stella Berry was with friends jet skiing in the Swan River, located in the city of Perth in Western Australia, when her friends said she decided to jump in the water to swim with dolphins which had been sighted near. His friends witnessed the attack, with Australian authorities calling it a “hugely traumatic” incident for everyone involved.

Don Punch, Australia’s fisheries minister, said on Sunday it was too early to confirm the species of shark involved, but said it was likely a bull shark.

“We know that bull sharks, in particular, enter estuaries and freshwater river systems, so it’s likely to be the case,” Punch told Australian outlet ABC News.

Bull sharks are considered by many experts to be the most dangerous sharks in the world. They are found in waters around the world and prefer to hunt in shallow coastal areas – where people also tend to swim – day or night. Bull sharks can reach a length of 7-11 feet or more, weighing between 200-500 pounds, and are known for their aggressive nature – where their name also comes from.

Unlike most shark species, bull sharks can also swim in fresh water for long periods of time, hence why they are known to enter and ascend estuaries. A study published in 2021 found that two bulldog sharks even traveled up the Mississippi River north to Illinois on separate trips in 1937 and 1995.

The study says the “rare occurrence” of bull sharks in rivers has been reported on five continents. The authors said the “physiological adaptations” that allow sharks to swim in freshwater, in addition to the fossil record, indicate that bulldog sharks have long since entered freshwater ecosystems.

Still, although you’re more likely to encounter a bull shark in a river than any other species, attacks are still rare.

Punch told ABC the last deadly bull shark attack at Perth’s Swan River happened 100 years ago, in 1923.

“There have only been six historical attacks recorded in the river, and that would make seven,” he added.

The recent deadly attack has prompted calls for more research into bull sharks in the river, with Johan Gustafson, a marine ecologist from Griffith University, telling Perth radio station 6PR that tagging the fish would help researchers understand them better.

“Believe it or not, we still don’t know much about them – we know the large scale movements and large scale behaviors of bull sharks, but not the smallest details – I think it’s a wonderful idea “, Gustafson told the station.

In 2022, there were 57 unprovoked shark attacks on humans worldwide, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History’s International Shark Attack File. The United States leads the world in shark attacks, with 41 recorded last year, while Australia came second with 9.

Bull sharks, great white sharks and tiger sharks are the species most frequently implicated in an attack.

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