Volusia County, FL – The great white shark Katharine was pinged Wednesday, March 29, near the Volusia County coast. In the following ping detected, she was in the middle of Daytona Beach and Palm Coast at around 7 a.m. Katharine may have some companions now that she is returning to Florida. Scientists say she might be pregnant.
Should that be true, Katharine could give birth to about four to 14 baby sharks. Each of them is expected to measure 4.5 feet in length. The gestation period of this species lasts 18 months.
One thing scientists know for sure: her movements over the past two years prove that she can now be considered a mature shark.
The shark, which measures 14 feet 2 inches long, was first captured off Cape Cod in southeastern Massachusets by OCEARCH in 2013 and a satellite transmitter has been attached to her dorsal fin since then so that experts can track her every move. She has traveled a distance of nearly 29,000 miles, according to satellite data.
Being able to tag Katharine’s journey allows the shark-tracking group to help scientists make sure her kind survives. Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader Chris Fischer says that experts need to know where the species give birth so they can go to those areas and provide care to the highly vulnerable newborns, who are naturally forced to survive on their own from the first moment.
Katharine’s first ping was detected in 2014 when she moved from the Florida Keys to the Gulf of Mexico, marking the first such migration among her species. Last year, she did not return to Cape Cod and the satellite tracker revealed that she had rather stayed in the offshore area near Nova Scotia, the Canadian province, as reported by Tech Times.
Fischer explained that if Katharine returns to Cape Cod during the fall, she would be demonstrating the repeat of the migratory cycle, which lasts for two years and is common among mature female sharks across the world.
Katharine the shark was named after Cape Cod native songwriter Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote “America the Beautiful”. The white shark was detected again in March this year in the offshore waters of Norfolk-Virginia Beach. A month later, her transmitter pinged in South Carolina.
As Fischer explained, great white sharks survive on their own since they are born. They are loners until they reach maturity and find a mate. When the female is ready to give birth, the eggs hatch inside the female’s body and the babies feed on the egg’s shells and sometimes they eat each other.
The Great Whites may be intimidating but they rarely attack
The great white sharks are considered top predators in the ocean and the largest predatory fish on Earth since they are extremely aggressive and their highly accurate sense of smell can detect a tiny drop of blood from over a mile away. This species has a very strong body and a sharp, serrated teeth. Besides, they can detect small electrical discharges from gills and hearts, which is why their prey is so vulnerable even at great distances.
However, recent scientific research shows they are not the killing machines most people think because attacks rarely occur. In fact, they are responsible for up to 10 attacks a year and most of these are not fatal, National Geographic reported.
Humans are not the source of their favorite taste. In fact, if they happen to bit a person they are most likely to release her or him. They prefer seals, sea lions, sea turtles, small toothed whales, dolphins, and carrion.
The species lives in waters where the temperatures are moderate since they seem to be uncomfortable in extreme cold or warm saltwater. These sharks can be found in Hawaii, the Gulf of Mexico, and Japan, among other areas around the world. The females usually breed along the shoreline of California.
Listed as endangered species, scientists believe their population numbers are dramatically declining mainly due to overfishing and accidental catching in gill nets, according to National Geographic.
The nonprofit organization has tagged 150 sharks since 2007 for research purposes. It aims at providing valuable insights related to biological studies, conservation and education that impacts the world, according to the group’s website.
OCEARCH conducts research expeditions aboard the M/V OCEARCH, a laboratory that works at sea and offers a strong and safe hydraulic platform to lift mature sharks out of the ocean. The team of researchers is made up by experts in a variety of fields who can conduct up to 12 studies in 15 minutes. Partners of the shark-tracking group, which expects to have 26 expeditions completed by the end of 2016, include 80 researchers from over 40 institutions.
Learn about all sharks tagged by OCEARCH here.
Source: Tech Times