Not all great white sharks journey alone

Not all great white sharks journey alone

Thu, 17/08/2023 - 11:57
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After attaching tracking instruments to a pair of great white sharks near the Georgia shoreline in December, researchers observed unusual behaviour

Great white shark
Great white shark

Two male great white sharks, named "Jekyll" and "Simon", tagged off Georgia's coast in December, displayed a groundbreaking migration pattern.

From April, Jekyll and Simon's joint journey saw them traverse the Atlantic Coast, passing places like Ocracoke and Virginia Beach in a synchronised manner. While sharks sometimes gather for mating or feeding, their migrations are usually solitary.

4,000 miles

Nonetheless, the two sharks journeyed similar routes along the Atlantic Coast, reaching Nova Scotia's southern shores simultaneously last month. After reaching Nova Scotia, both sharks moved past Halifax, around the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The sharks were last detected together in July near Quebec's eastern coast after covering roughly 4,000 miles.

Simon's last signal was on August 11 near New Brunswick's northeastern coast. Robert Hueter, chief scientist at OCEARCH, the marine life research organisation which is tracking the sharks, now anticipates Jekyll's next signal, hoping to determine if he's joined Simon.

Synchronised Travellers

Hueter highlighted that white sharks, typically solitary predators, had never been observed travelling in such synchrony over extended periods. Hueter is keen to determine if there's a familial link between them, given their synchronised movements.

Hueter remarked that shark social behaviour is not well-understood. Observing Jekyll and Simon near Nova Scotia in July, he pondered if their gender or physical similarities influenced their paths, or if they might be siblings, suggesting stronger familial ties among sharks than previously thought.

OCEARCH's Mission

OCEARCH, based in Utah, began tracking Atlantic Ocean sharks in 2012. They capture white sharks, collecting samples and assessing their physical attributes. Three tracking devices are then attached, and the sharks are released. The aim is to gather insights into their habitats, breeding, feeding, and migration, identifying areas needing conservation efforts.

To date, OCEARCH has tracked 92 white sharks, including Simon and Jekyll. Simon, 9.5 feet long and 434 pounds, was captured near St. Simons Island, Georgia, on December 4. Five days later, Jekyll, 8 feet 8 inches and 395 pounds, was caught near Jekyll Island, Georgia. Both are estimated to be 10-15 years old.



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