Tracking sharks to solve 450-million-year-old mystery

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

shark catching
Wow, look at this brave man handling a great white shark!

I want you to think of everything you know about great white sharks… besides their scary faces, sharp teeth, and deadly hunting skills. Not much is coming to mind, huh? What’s funny is that as popular as these creature are, there’s a lot mystery surrounding the sea monsters. That’s why a scientific group know as Ocearch is focused on learning everything about the beasts!

“We don’t know much about the great white shark’s natural history, its ecology from day to day, how it lives and interacts with its environment,” said Greg Skomal, chief scientist on board Ocearch. Since the group launched back in 2007, they’ve bravely tagged more than 60 sharks and tracked their movements in the deep ocean waters.

According to the information collected from the devices, great whites don’t spend their time hanging out by a beach coast waiting to gobble up an innocent surfer, like some movies lead us to believe… at least the female sharks don’t anyway.

Several of these sharky gals swim from one entire continent to another! The record for the longest trip ever was of a great white who swam from South America to Australia in just 99 days, which is almost a 7,000 mile trip! However, even though the Ocearch team knows where the beasts like to travel, they don’t know why the sharks even bother going in the first place. According to Chris Fischer, Ocearch’s research leader, the “females go way out over Madagascar, and even out into the middle of the Indian Ocean, and they hang around out there for months and months. What are they doing out there? Are they gestating their babies? Are they feeding?”

These are just a few questions on the team’s mind, but there is so much more they want to know about one of the ocean’s greatest hunters. “This project is about solving the annual movements of the great white shark around the north Atlantic – it’s a 450-million-year mystery and today everyone gets to watch it unfold in real time,” said Fischer. Hopefully they can find out before the shark population goes extinct.

Images courtesy of Ocearch.