(HONOLULU) -- A small shark that's as nasty as it is fearless has made its first documented attack on a live human being.
A cookiecutter shark, which was probably a little more than a foot long, took a chunk out of the leg of a distance swimmer who was trying to make a nighttime swim from the island of Hawaii to Maui.
The attack occurred 90 minutes after sunset March 16, 2009, but has just recently been documented by scientists in Hawaii and Florida.
Despite their reputation, the cookiecutter shark -- so named because it gouges cookie sized bits of flesh from its victims -- historically has not posed a widespread danger to people. Only two other cases involving attacks on humans by cookiecutter sharks have been widely accepted by experts, but both those attacks were on cadavers, one a drowning victim and the other a suicide.
The director of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History thinks people ought to be aware the nature of this predator.
"It's not as scary as Jaws, but it's very different from any other kind of attack we have [in the file] because of the size of the shark and the modus operandi," George Burgess said in releasing the study.
A report on the attack is to be published in an upcoming edition of the journal Pacific Science.
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