Great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) are famously solitary, highly adapted predators that take the blame for all manner of scary movie characteristics. However research has revealed that these giants of the ocean may have a softer side and even form close social bonds – shark BFFs, anyone?
Researchers studying shark behavior have made an unusual discovery. Off the southeast coast of the United States, data from tags attached to great white sharks revealed that a pair of great whites had traveled roughly 6,437 kilometers (4,000 miles) up the Atlantic coast together. These sharks, named Jekyll and Simon, appear to have made the whole trip together in what would be a first for the species.
“This is potentially groundbreaking,” Dr Bob Hueter, chief scientist at marine research organization OCEARCH, said in a video posted to Facebook.
This type of behavior has not been seen before in the species. Since both sharks were tagged in December 2022 off the coast of Georgia, scientists were able to collect genetic information about the species. They plan to test whether Simon and Jekyll are related to help explain the social behaviors.
Other species of sharks are known to use biofluorescent color patterns on their bodies to identify their pals in the darker parts of the ocean. In 2020, grey reef sharks were found to have friends that they repeatedly spent time with, returning to the same social groups year on year. While great white sharks are usually solitary, they have come together in feeding groups or for breeding behaviors.
By tracking the travels of Jekyll and Simon, the team believe they can learn more about their migration habits as well as the social behaviors involved. This could better inform conservation practices for this species. “Now this adds a whole new element of sort of a familial and social component to migration,” Hueter said in a statement to the Washington Post.
If you want to find out where Simon and Jekyll are now, head to the Ocearch website.