What Colors Attract Sharks More Than Others and Why?

Woman in bright colored bathing suit on white surfboard is attracting sharks in the ocean

Although shark attacks are not nearly as frequent as fictional movies and shows will allow you to believe, it is still in good practice to avoid any incidents while swimming in the ocean. A good rule of thumb to staying safe is paying attention to your surroundings, but also what you are wearing; more specifically, your choice of colors.

Sharks may be more inclined to go toward swimmers depending on what colors they are wearing. So, it is within your interest to learn about a shark’s vision and what may or may not attract it before you go for a swim in the ocean. Let’s dive in and take a closer look at what the science says.

Can Sharks Truly See Color?

Closeup of the eye of a lemon shark

The biggest question here is whether or not sharks can truly see in color. Scientists have long found that sharks don’t exactly see color. This was discovered by examining the eyes of several different shark species.

Research showed that sharks that live deeper tend to have mostly rods in their retinas to help them see in the darker conditions. Alongside that, sharks that don’t live as deep underwater still only appear to have a single cone type in their retinas.

It is our multiple cones in our retinas that help us distinguish colors. So, if sharks lack that, they are unable to truly tell colors apart. Even though there are plenty more shark species that scientists can research and study, they are comfortable claiming that sharks lack the ability to see real colors.

With that said, sharks are known to notice the contrast of both colors and patterns. It is this factor that makes it appear as if they are more attracted to one color over the other, because of the differences in contrast compared to the surrounding body of water.

What Colors Attract Sharks?

Woman in yellow swimsuit floating on the surface of the water

A shark will not be able to notice if something is outright red or green. However, they will be able to tell the difference between light colors and dark colors. This is because of the contrast between the light colors and the rest of the ocean, and the light that reflects off it.

Sharks may naturally find themselves lured in by vibrant, bright tones of yellowred, and orange. Yellow, in particular, is known to be appealing for Great White Sharks to the point that it has received the long-running nickname of “yum-yum-yellow“.

To put it frankly, any color you choose that is brightly hued might be a red flag, so to speak, for sharks. These hues are far easier for them to detect, more so if you are swimming in murky waters. You become a more obvious target, and you may even distract them from any of their common prey that may be swimming around.

Alongside that, sharks can equally become distracted if you go into the water wearing contrasting patterns, as they also allow you to stand out.

What Colors Are Least Appealing to Sharks?

Scuba diver in black wetsuit underwater close to sharks

As we know that bright colors are more appealing and distinct to sharks, that makes darker and more muted tones less attractive. Colors like brown and black do not offer much in terms of visibility when you are underwater. Because of that, there is less of a chance you will stand out among the water or other prey which the shark is more likely to chase after.

The Case of Reflective Material

Indeed, sharks cannot exactly point out that you are wearing jewelry or something else that is reflective. Still, they can notice reflective material. This, just like with bright colors, has a high chance of distracting a shark.

As such, you will want to avoid reflective items in your outfits, just like you may want to shy away from the more vibrant colors and patterns.

This is also true when it comes to metallic fabric. All of this can readily reflect off the light that is near the surface of the water. When this happens, you are making yourself resemble prey and thereby increase the chance of a curious or confused shark noticing you.

Woman feet with reflective jewelry walking on beach near the water

Final Thoughts

So, we have come to the conclusion that sharks cannot discern colors, but they can notice contrast and reflective material. Bright high contrast colors are more appealing than natural, muted tones.

Shark attacks are a rarity, but it doesn’t hurt to make yourself even less of a viable target by wearing darker tones and avoiding reflective items like metallic fabric, watches, rings, and other jewelry. This way, you can blend into your surroundings and look less like prey.