You might think ruling the oceans as an almost four-metre apex predator would be a pretty cruisy life, but new photos from an ocean research organisation reveal it may not be all it’s cracked up to be.
US-based OCEARCH caught this 3.88 metre, 527 kilogram white shark in the northwest of the Atlantic Ocean earlier this month.
The shark, named Vimy by the researchers, is one of the biggest sharks to be caught in the area, but scientists made a chilling discovery when they pulled the monster shark aboard.
Heavy scarring on Vimy’s face suggest he was recently attacked, with an expert’s best guess that it could only have been by a “significantly bigger” shark.
“It was clear that something had just grabbed his entire head,” OCEARCH founding chairman Chris Fischer told McClatchy news group.
“It was a very large animal that grabbed it, something significantly bigger … anything that can grab an animal like that by the head is pretty impressive,” he said.
Vimy had older scars on his lower jaw, believed to have come from a previous bite, but a fresh wound on the top of his head suggests he’d gone up against a bigger shark and come off second best.
Mr Fischer guessed Vimy had been bitten while competing with other males over a mate or had tried to mate with a bigger female shark who wasn’t having it.
He also suggested Vimy may have gotten in the way of a larger shark’s meal but said this was a less likely scenario.
Whatever the reason behind the attack, Mr Fischer said based on the size of the jaw marks and teeth, whatever attacked Vimy would have been at least around 4.5 metres.
Vimy was caught on October 4 during an OCEARCH expedition to Nova Scotia, but OCEARCH’s online tracker showed him further south off the coast of Maryland on Thursday morning.
Earlier in the expedition, OCEARCH caught and tagged a 4.7 metre, 941 kilogram female shark named Unama’ki.
She’s the second biggest ever tagged by OCEARCH, beaten only by 4.87 metre Mary Lee, tagged in 2012 near Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
Mary Lee’s tracker last reported her location off the coast of New Jersey in June 2017.
But her record was almost broken this month.
The OCEARCH team supposedly caught a 5.18 metre great white shark, but Mr Fischer said he escaped before they could tag him.
The researchers are studying the mating behaviour of white sharks in the North Atlantic Ocean, and the freshness of Vimy’s wound and the location he was caught suggests they may have found a breeding hotspot.
“We found three males in that same spot and the two others had viable sperm samples. Maybe Vimy was just the small guy on the block,” Mr Fischer said.
While no one wants to kinkshame a shark, Mr Fischer said there was plenty of evidence the predators like it rough.
“We do know that shark mating is very violent. Sharks biting each other in the head is not a new thing. This is an everyday part of their life,” he said.
Sharks are quick healers, so it’s likely Vimy will soon recover from his bites if he hasn’t already.