Drone Footage Shows Two Individual Sharks Interacting – Is It Really That Rare?

Drone footage shows the two sharks darting near each other before swimming apart. Screenshot/Atlantic White Shark Conservancy

Newly captured drone footage shows two white sharks seemingly “interacting” in Massachusetts waters, but it is not the first time such behavior has been observed (as some publications have reported).

Little is known about the world’s most predatory fish, but over the decades researchers have observed white sharks appearing to interact with each other and even display dominance. A 2016 study tracking white sharks in near-coastal environments found evidence of “random associations among individuals” – interactions that may have been influenced by sex and body size and could signal a variety of things including preference in diet or sizing for mating patterns. A similar study published in the journal Marine Biology Research observed social interactions between white sharks when in the presence of bait in South Africa – seen swimming by, following one another, giving way, as well as “piggybacking” and having “splash fights". Animals here were also seen interacting more with animals of the same length than those of different sizes.

Though the researchers did claim their drone video was the “FIRST FOOTAGE EVER!”, they were quick to specify that they meant the “first ever off Cape Cod.”

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“Based on scarring patterns and wounds, we know that white sharks off Cape Cod frequently bite each other. However, until this video was shot, we had never actually witnessed any kind of social interaction,” said Gregory Skomal, program manager and senior scientist with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, in an online statement. “The video shows a smaller white shark approach and make contact with a larger white shark, which quickly left the area. We are now examining the video more closely to determine if this was aggressive and/or defensive behavior or, perhaps, associated with mating."

The vulnerable white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) migrates from the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico and mid-Atlantic to the shores of Massachusetts in the spring, summer, and fall in search of food and mating opportunities, according to the state Department of Marine Fisheries (DMF). The government agency started studying white sharks a decade ago after populations increased following the restoration of the seal population. Since then, scientists have tagged over 120 individual sharks and continue to work with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy to understand population patterns.

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