Great White Sharks Are “Cliquey,” Scientists Learn

Animals

| LAST UPDATE 03/29/2022

by Veronica Anderson
great white shark behaviour
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Scientists have recently discovered a secret social club of great white sharks. Gathered together off the western coast of Mexico, in the waters of Guadalupe Island, this finding came as a shock for scientists. Here's what they found out.

For starters: a secret social club for sharks may be as elite as it sounds, especially those swimming in the blue waters of Guadalupe Island. In these exclusive clubs, sharks spend over an hour together and stick together to scavenge for food. According to an article in the journal Biology Letters, dozens of great whites formed "tight cliques" in the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Scientists found one particular pair of sharks spending roughly 70 minutes together. According to Yannis Papastamatiou, a marine scientist at Florida International University, "Seventy minutes is a long time to be swimming around with another white shark." These lengthy interactions are likely to be "social associations," leaving researchers more and more curious about their social dynamics.

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The team behind the discovery was curious to determine if the sharks were changing their hunting strategies. In their study, they tagged three male and three female great white sharks between October 2017 and December 2018 to trace the shark's depth and direction, swimming speed, and when the "super social tagged" sharks came in close distance to each other. The tag contained a small video camera that came off the shark's dorsal fin after a few days. By using the tagged videos, scientists found extreme differences in varying sharks. For example, one shark had its tag on for only 30 hours and interacted with 12 sharks, and one had its tag on for five days and had only two interactions. Combined with previous experiments, researchers determined the data, for the most part, showed sharks preferred to be in groups with members of the same sex. Additionally, the studies showed that these massive fish displayed different hunting tactics with other sharks, depending on the day and at various depths.

Great White Shark Behavior
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Papastamatiou added, "They aren't working together but being social could be a way to share information. The important question we still have to answer is what's the reason for being social for these sharks?" He continued to share he believes there could possibly be a link between the shark's hunting success and their intimate social connections after all. Stay tuned while this story develops.

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