Update on Mysterious Great White Death

Great white death a mysteryUpdate on Mysterious Great White Death

Earlier this year we reported on the mysterious death of a Great White Shark off the shore of Gansbaai, near Hermanus, South Africa.





Although nobody relishes the thought of a death of a Great White Shark, this opportunity to carry out an autopsy and learn more about this largely mysterious creature, is one to be taken advantage of.Dead shark in Gansbaai

The Great White Shark (as reported in this earlier article: Mysterious Great White Death) found dead in Gansbaai, home of the Eco-tourism industry, Great White Shark Cage Diving and scores of Great White Sharks, was transported to Cape Town’s Department of Environmental Affairs for a full investigation into the cause of it’s death as well as carry out as much research as possible.

So little is known as fact with Great White Sharks. Their elusive behavior and unexplained patterns of migration have puzzled scientists and researchers for years. Their strange behavior of ‘attacking’ humans, sometimes consuming and others just ‘tasting’ has also confused reasearchers and with few opportunities to carry out autopsy’s and in-depth research on the physical body of a Great White Shark, it remains one of the greatest mysteries of the ocean.

It is now known, after the autopsy had been carried out, that the Great White had consumed 6 Cape Fur Seals prior to it’s death. The local newspaper report in the Hermanus Times stated:

Scientists involved in the dissection of the dead great whie shark that was retrieved from Dyer Island by the Dyer Island conservations Trust (DICT) in June have now pieced together the last meal the shark enjoyed.

Using three boats and a specially designed animal cradle, DICT managed to secure the body of the shark, which was then taken to Cape Town by the Department of Environmental Affairs for dissection. According to the scientists, there were no obvious signs of suggesting cause of death, but it was obvious that the shark had a protruding stomach cavity.

“As much as you never want to see a dead white shark, it is incredible to be able to examine such an animal up close,” said DICT marine biologist Alison Towner.

What was in the shark’s stomach were six Cape Fur Seals plus another three skulls. Three of the six seals were two-to-five year old juveniles, while the other three were young of the year pups. The six seals were at the same stage of digestion, suggesting they had been eaten within the same amount of time, which raises more questions on their feeding behaviour.

“When the seals were removed and pieced back together you could see exactly how that shark killed them,” said Michelle Wcisel, a DICT zoologist. “The three older seals were all split right in the middle; it looked like a missile had cut them into two, and the three small seals were swallowed whole.”

Different parts of the shark will be sent to researchers across the country (South Africa), working on various aspects of shark biology.

(Report in Hermanus Times, 27 September 2012)


Apologies for the mis-report previously regarding the Great White Shark being washed up on shore. This report was inaccurate as stated in the Hermans Times article, the shark was found dead in the water and retrieved by boat, not washed up onto the shore.




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