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First-ever sighting of a live newborn great white may help solve longstanding mystery in shark scien

Accepted submission by taylorvich at 2024-01-29 15:17:38
Science

https://phys.org/news/2024-01-sighting-newborn-great-white-longstanding.html [phys.org]

Great whites, the largest predatory sharks in the world with the most fatal attacks on humans, are tough to imagine as newborn babies. That is partially because no one has seen one in the wild, it seems, until now.

Wildlife filmmaker Carlos Gauna and UC Riverside biology doctoral student Phillip Sternes were scanning the waters for sharks on July 9, 2023, near Santa Barbara on California's central coast. That day, something exciting appeared on the viewfinder of Gauna's drone camera. It was a shark pup unlike any they'd ever seen.

Great whites, referred to only as white sharks by scientists, are gray on top and white on the bottom. But this roughly 5-foot-long shark was pure white.

"We enlarged the images, put them in slow motion, and realized the white layer was being shed from the body as it was swimming," Sternes said. "I believe it was a newborn white shark shedding its embryonic layer."

These observations are documented in a new paper in the Environmental Biology of Fishes journal. The paper also details the significance of having seen a live newborn white shark.
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"Where white sharks give birth is one of the holy grails of shark science. No one has ever been able to pinpoint where they are born, nor has anyone seen a newborn baby shark alive," Gauna said. "There have been dead white sharks found inside deceased pregnant mothers. But nothing like this."


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