A fake photograph showing a fearsome-looking shark launching an attack on a motorist on a flooded highway in Missouri has gone viral on social media.
The photo appears to have emerged on social media on December 28, 2015, when it was shared on Facebook by user Bill Tennison, who claimed the story was sourced from CNN.
According to Tennison, a flooded highway in Missouri was the scene of a “horrific shark attack” as shown in the photo. He claimed that the names of the victims were being withheld but assured Facebook users that they were recipients of the $4.5 million Facebook giveaway by Mark Zuckerberg, a reference to a recent Facebook hoax.
— Katharine The Shark (@Shark_Katharine) December 31, 2015
“This flooded Missouri highway was the scene of a horrific shark attack,” Tennison wrote. “Just another reason not to drive through roads that are under water. The names of these folks have not been released; however, they were recent recipients of $4.5 million from Mark Zuckerberg.”
The photo shows two males standing by a car on a flooded portion of a lane purportedly at a place in Missouri. The lane is flooded to the lowest point of its incline. One of the men stands by the open door of the car, which appears to have stalled in the water. He appears perfectly oblivious of a massive shark launching an attack from behind with jaws wide open.
And judging from the fact that the water rises only a few inches above the man’s knees, it must have been only a few feet deep.
The image of a shark launching an attack on a full-grown man from flood water only a few feet deep on a road in land-locked Missouri about hundreds of miles from the ocean seems preposterous. But the Facebook prank was evidently playing on the well-known fact that some shark species, such as bull sharks, swim far inland in fresh water and occasionally launch attacks on unwary victims.
CNN- This flooded Missouri highway was the scene of a horrific shark attack. pic.twitter.com/JR3kH8mjo8
— Scott Ranney (@Floorscavendish) December 30, 2015
A few shark attacks have been reported in freshwater environments such as the August 2014 incident involving a 7-year-old boy bitten on the heel by a bull shark while swimming in Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana.
Bull sharks are described as “diadromous,” meaning that they are able to survive in a freshwater environment as well as in salty marine waters. They have been sighted about 2,500 miles up the Amazon River in South America and in freshwater lakes such as Lake Nicaragua in Central America.
— Patricia Kellogg (@PatriciaKellogg) December 30, 2015
Several bull sharks were spotted swimming in Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Sharks were reportedly sighted in 2006 in the Mississippi River in Minnesota and Wisconsin far up from the Gulf of Mexico. A bull shark was also reportedly sighted in the Mississippi River near Alton in Illinois. They have been sighted in the Potomac River in Maryland and in Lake Michigan, where one allegedly attacked a man in 1955.
Flooded Missouri highway scene of horrific shark attack. Another reason to avoid roads covered by water. 1/2… pic.twitter.com/SVAIMgZSp7
— Dave Lavery (@davelavery) December 29, 2015
Despite the disturbing fact that bull sharks do swim hundreds of miles inland, the Facebook photo was meant as a joke, and judging from the comments on social media, most users realized it was a joke. But a few social media users appeared oblivious to the fact that it was a joke. Some users posted messages warning friends and social media followers to avoid driving in flood water because of the danger of a “horrific shark attack.”
“Too bad today’s not April 1st as this flooded Missouri highway was the scene of a horrific shark attack…”
“A shark attack on a flooded Missouri highway? It was a joke.”
“Just saw a ‘news story’ on FB about a shark attack on a flooded roadway in Missouri… really didn’t think people could be so dumb until now.”
“Shark attack in Missouri flooded river. Victim was recipient of zuckerberg’s Facebook millions give away.”
“Do not drive in flood water RT @Floorscavendish This flooded Missouri highway was the scene of horrific shark attack.”
It is unclear, however, why the victim of the “shark attack” had to be a recipient of Zuckerberg’s $4.5 million Facebook giveaway, a reference to a recent viral Facebook hoax.
According to the purveyors of the hoax, Facebook’s Zuckerberg was giving away millions of dollars to 1,000 Facebook users who posted a status on their profile before midnight.
The Inquisitr reports that some variations of the hoax claimed that $4.5 million will be given to the first 1,000 Facebook users who copy and paste a status to their profile by midnight.
According to one of such messages, “[Zuckerberg] plans to give 10% of [his fortune] away to people like you and me! All you have to do is copy and paste this message into a post immediately. At midnight PST, Facebook will search through the day’s post and award 1000 people with $4.5 million each as a way of saying thank you for making Facebook such a powerful vehicle for connection.”
Many Facebook users believed the message apparently because of recent reports on the news media that Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, had made a pledge to give away their wealth as part of an initiative to help “advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation.”
[Image via Terry Gross/Wikimedia]