Top experts all agree - the "shark" is really a dolphin
UPDATE 2.35pm: THREE eminent shark experts have agreed the "shark" in Peter Coan's dramatic image is in fact a second dolphin on its side.
Taronga Conservation Society Australia media manager Mark Williams said John West, of the Taronga Zoo-based Australian Shark Attack File, NSW Department of Industries fisheries expert Dr Vic Peddemors, and Dr Barry Bruce from the CSIRO had all examined the photo taken by Mr Coan.
Mr West had also spoken to Mr Coan and been supplied other images taken around this one, which Dr Peddemors and Dr Bruce had also examined.
"John, Vic and Barry all agree that the animal in the water is another dolphin on its side after falling back into the water (note splash pushing water to the side)," Mr Williams said in an email responding to a request for information from The Northern Star.
Mr Williams quoted Dr Bruce, saying: "A more parsimonious explanation is that the animal in the wave is a second dolphin as part of the pod.
"It is the same colour as the leaping dolphin and the pectorals are pretty short for a white. My feeling is it is another dolphin distorted by the wave."
"It looks like the photographer got a shot of two dolphins jumping with one just re-entering the water."
A few of our readers also came to the same conclusion.
"Awesome photo, but definitely 2 dolphins with the one in the water on it's side," commented my2sence from Caloundra in the comments section of this story.
A few of our Facebook readers also spotted the underwater dolphin's true identity.
"Is there another photo to prove that this is a shark and not another dolphin," asked Kark Sprogis on yesterday's Photo of the Day Facebook post..
"The fluke looks like it lies horizontally (like a dolphin's) & the dorsal fin is obscured by the white water. It also looks to be a similar size to the one above and swimming on its side with the right side up."
"Nice photo," commented Fredrik Christiansen. "However the animal in the water looks very much like a dolphin swimming on its side, with its right side up.'
Well spotted everyone.
INITIAL REPORT: AT the right place and at the right time, East Ballina resident Peter Coan captured the moment a dolphin escaped the jaws of a hungry shark near Ballina's North Wall.
"I was very excited to take this one in a million shot, albeit a day after and very near to where Mathew Lee was taken at Lighthouse Beach," Mr Coan said.
Southern Cross University marine biology expert Dr Danny Bucher said shark and dolphin encounters were more common than you might think, and actually served as a helpful tool to keep dolphin populations balanced.
"If you've got a dolphin that is very sick it's going to be cared for by the rest of the pod, but that's also going to mean the rest of the pod may catch a disease," he said.
"By culling out the weak and the sick the sharks are actually keeping the dolphin population healthy."
Dolphins in a pod are less likely to be attacked but the old, the sick and the slow are targets for hungry sharks.
"But they aren't mindless killers," Dr Bucher said.
"They don't want to waste energy on something they don't want to eat."