OCEARCH, a marine research non-profit group, recently posted a snap of a great white shark they were tracking with two giant bite marks on its head, causing them to wonder what the hell made those marks?
The chomped shark was a 3.8-meter (12 foot 9 inches) adult male named "Vimy" recently studied off the east coast of the US by OCEARCH. Despite his battle scars, he appeared to be in remarkably good shape.
Judging by the size and shape of the bites, they suspect it was the result of a brawl with other large sharks, although it's unclear whether it was a different species or a fellow male great white fighting for a mate. One of the wounds was relatively fresh, while the other was almost healed, suggesting the two injuries occurred on separate occasions.
"We do suspect that in this case the bite was inflicted by another, larger white shark," Chris Fischer, OCEARCH Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader, told IFLScience.
"A week before tagging Vimy, OCEARCH encountered a white shark we suspect was 17-feet long [5.1 meters]. So, we know there are sharks of the coast of Nova Scotia that are bigger than Vimy," he explained.
OCEARCH managed to attach a tracker to Vimy, along with 10 other sharks, in a recent expedition in the North Atlantic. The project was also able to capture some of the first-ever ultrasound images of beating white shark hearts in the wild and gauge their resting heart rate (which, for the record, is around 10 beats per minute).
As you can see from the live map of his whereabouts here, Vimy was first spotted earlier this month near Nova Scotia before heading towards the equator. By October 20, Vimy was spotted deep in the Atlantic almost 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) away southwards from his first sighting.
Great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) can be found in many waters across the globe, with notable concentrations in the US (northeast coast and California), South Africa, Japan, Chile, and the Meditteranean.
The species are great travelers, with individuals embarking on lengthy migrations every year. Numerous researchers have noted schools of individuals independently migrating between Mexico and Hawaii. In other ocean basins, such as the Atlantic, individuals may migrate even longer distances. They are no stranger to the deep and dark depths of the oceans either, with one study documenting great white at depths of 1,128 meters (3,700 feet).
Shark-on-shark conflict is not as uncommon as you might think, either.
"White sharks are big powerful predators and when they come in contact with each other, it is often a violent encounter," Fischer added. "We’ve encountered many that have had all kinds of wounds and scars. Some have had pieces missing from their fins, while others have had marks around their gill areas that are very indicative of mating encounters. What was unique about Vimy was both the apparent freshness of the wound and just how clear the top and bottom marks lined up to show the outline of the jaws from his opponent."
Earlier this year, a fisherman pulled out the severed head of a mako shark from the waters of New South Wales, Australia. It’s not totally clear what caused the decapitation, although biologists speculate that multiple sharks took multiple little chunks out of the body until it fell apart, leaving just the head attached to the angler's line.