Researchers have achieved a groundbreaking milestone by capturing footage of a newborn great white shark, a phenomenon never before recorded. Although great whites are renowned apex predators, the birth of a live newborn has eluded documentation until now.
Wildlife filmmakers Carlos Gauna and Phillip Sternes recorded the extraordinary sighting off the coast of California last year, near Santa Barbara. The baby shark, measuring around five feet in length, displayed an unusual almost pure white coloration, piquing the researchers’ curiosity.
Upon reviewing the footage, Gauna and Sternes discovered that the shark was shedding a milky white layer from its body. They believe this shedding captures the rare moment of a newborn shark discarding its embryonic layer.
Gauna described the find as “one of the holy grails of shark science,” emphasizing the scarcity of live observations of newborn great white sharks. The prevailing knowledge about great white shark births is limited to discovering dead pups inside deceased pregnant mothers.
The filmmakers, who have been documenting sharks for years, had noticed a large adult shark in the area suspected to be pregnant. Recognizing a small window of about four weeks when sharks tend to appear in the region, they specifically aimed to capture footage of a newborn during that timeframe.
Their efforts paid off when they observed a large shark descending into the depths, followed by the appearance of the small, almost entirely white, shark. Sternes expressed his excitement, stating, “I fell out of my seat in excitement as it was unlike anything I had ever seen before.”
While some experts support Gauna and Sternes’ interpretation of the footage, acknowledging the significance of potentially identifying a birthing location for great white sharks, others remain cautious. Questions arise due to the lone nature of the shark, as great whites typically give birth to multiple pups. Additionally, the researchers consider the possibility that the shark might have covered a considerable distance shortly after birth.
Despite differing opinions, the discovery remains fascinating. Whether it represents a rare birthing moment or an unprecedented skin condition in great white sharks, it adds valuable insights to the scientific understanding of these elusive creatures.