Despite our widespread fascination with great white sharks, we know surprisingly little about their reproduction and their young. But that might be about to change.
A team of researchers from OCEARCH believe they have discovered the first known breeding site for great white sharks off Montauk in Long Island, New York, CBS News reports.
“Definitely the nursery, likely the birthing site,” Chris Fischer, lead researcher and founder of OCEARCH, told CBS News. “Probably the most important significant discovery we’ve ever made on the ocean.”
If you head over to the OCEARCH website, you’ll be able to see their live global shark tracker in action. While attaching these tags, the researchers also take blood samples and small muscle biopsies for further information on their health. It’s taken 26 expeditions to build up this network of tracked sharks, but now they’re playing a key role in this discovery.
“The strategy at the time was, get a tag out on big mature animals, and when you get one on a big female, 18 months later, she should lead you to the holy grail of the research, the birthing site,” Fischer added.
Great white sharks can be found in a huge spread of coastal waters and open oceans around the world, from the tip of South America to Alaska, although they are found in higher numbers around Australia, South Africa, North America, Oceania, and the Mediterranean. They are also ardent travelers and have been known to migrate between continents, so tracking the lives of these creatures is no small feat, especially when it comes to their breeding.
Previously, it has been theorized the Mediterranean is likely to hold a great white nursery, while some have said there’s strong evidence to suggest New South Wales is the home of one. Nevertheless, these have never been definitively proven.
It’s therefore even more surprising the discovery was first made in the North Atlantic, where great white shark populations are currently under pressure. The researchers are hoping this find could help change that by informing stronger protection policies.
“It’s kind of like step two in the science,” Fischer explained. “When we started this work... back in 2012, 2013, the real question was where are these sharks in the North Atlantic giving birth? Because that’s where they’re most vulnerable.”