Megasharks: marine predators grow to anomalous sizes and change their habits

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Tiger sharks and great white sharks enjoy protected no-fishing areas and grow to monstrous sizes, reports the Mirror.

Sea predators grow to anomalous sizes and change their habits

Photo: Shutterstock

Representatives of the most dangerous species of sharks began to grow rapidly in size. Abnormally large specimens have been spotted in French Polynesia and off the Hawaiian Islands.

Marine biologist Corey Burckhardt says tiger and white sharks have grown to abnormal lengths, Lenta reports.

Corey Burkhardt discovered the almost five-meter tiger shark in the waters of French Polynesia in 2019. Large individuals of this species usually grow up to three to four meters in length. Burkhardt attributes the sheer size of the Kamakai – as scientists have named the five-meter predatory fish – to the fact that tiger sharks have been under special protection in this area since 2006.
“It can be five meters long, but three meters wide, including fins. This is crazy”, – she says.

And after a recent trip, it looks like the Kamakaya that Corey first spotted three years ago isn't the only big game in these waters.

The authors of the National Geographic documentary “Shark: White vs. Tiger” predict that a population of sharks will appear in French Polynesia, which are larger than their counterparts from other regions. The film also explains that the government's shark protection measures have made French Polynesia a safe breeding ground for predatory fish.

“The waters around French Polynesia have become a great shark paradise—a haven where a shark like Kamakaya can spawn a new generation of megasharks”, – says Corey.

Tiger sharks have killed 34 people since records began, but their deadlier cousins, the great whites, are also on the rise.

During the filming of the documentary, which airs on Friday as part of the annual week Sharkfest, the team “saw two of the biggest white sharks ever recorded in Hawaii.”

Great whites typically measure about 5 meters in length. They are also the most aggressive sharks in the world, with 333 recorded attacks on humans, 52 of which were fatal.

Years of campaigning to protect endangered shark species, as well as some of their food sources, has helped megasharks get even bigger as they can eat more easily. Decreased threat may be one reason why they are now getting bigger, some of them reaching over 6 meters, scientists say.

It is believed that great whites can now hunt in packs and increase their size by catching more large prey.

After three 10kg great white sharks were filmed eating a whale carcass, marine biologist Dr Chris Lowe said: “Of course, it’s okay to find one white shark and a whale. But when three female sharks and a whale – it's different.”

“It means that these sharks must have been close enough to smell this whale, and it could also mean that these sharks are traveling together. This is something we have never been able to learn or understand”, – he said.

Deep Blue's first mega white shark made headlines when it was spotted off the coast of Mexico eight years ago.

Deep Blue is estimated to be 50 years old, weighs 2000 kg and is 6 meters long – about the same size as a moving truck.

American wildlife photographer Kimberly Jeffries encountered Deep Blue off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii , shortly before the pandemic, and filmed swimming with a shark.

“She was the biggest white shark I have ever seen,” recalls Kimberly. – They are apex predators, so they should be respected.”

“Nevertheless, I was sure that with such an easily accessible source of food, there was no danger to me,” – she said.

Just a few days later, she returned to the water to find that two other females of the same size had joined Deep Blue.

The documentary said there was a strong possibility “that an even bigger shark might be hiding somewhere in the depths.”

White sharks are considered a vulnerable species due to illegal fishing and the destruction of their habitat as a result of climate change. This year, the state of Hawaii banned the trapping and killing of sharks in state waters. Scientists believe that this was one of the reasons for the increase in the length of white sharks up to six meters. Biologists also noted that the problem of obesity in sharks is associated with their association in flocks. Previously, predatory fish competed with each other for food sources, but group hunting has made it easier to find food.

Great white sharks, also known as man-eating sharks, are considered the most dangerous shark species for humans. The second place in the statistics of attacks on humans is occupied by the tiger shark. According to the Geological Society of Africa (GSAf), in 2022, there were 52 cases of attacks by sharks of all species on humans, seven of them were fatal.

Despite the adoption of laws to protect sharks, their illegal fishing continues. Poachers hunt for shark fins, which are credited with healing properties. According to various sources, from 26 to 73 million sharks are caught annually for finning.

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