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Great white sharks

MIAMI April 9, 2013 Many terrestrial animals are frequently observed scavenging on other animals whether it is a hyena stealing a lion kill in the Serengeti or a buzzard swooping down on a dead animal. However, documenting this sort of activity in the oceans is especially difficult, and often overlooked in marine food web studies.

In a new study published in PLOS ONE titled, "White sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) scavenging on whales and its potential role in further shaping the ecology of an apex predator," Captain Chris Fallows from Apex Expeditions collaborated with University of Miami (UM) scientists Dr. Neil Hammerschlag and Austin Gallagher, to explore the behaviors of Great white sharks scavenging on dead whales in South Africa. The team documented as many as 40 different sharks scavenging on a carcass over the course of a single day, revealing unique social interactions among sharks.

The study summarized observations based on four scavenging events opportunistically observed over a 10 year period. In each multi-day observation, the team recorded daily evidence of social, aggregative and feeding behaviors observed in the waters off South Africa. They suggest that although the occurrence of coming upon a whale carcass may be sporadic, the shark populations are likely prepared to scavenge on them, and may even rely on their scavenging activities to supplement their regular feeding activities.

"Although rarely seen, we suspect that as white sharks mature, scavenging on whales becomes more prevalent and significant to these species than previously thought," said Hammerschlag, who is director of the R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program at UM.

The team found that sharks showed a clear preference for scavenging on the blubber, probably because these high calorie meals can sustain the sharks for longer periods of time. Interestingly, though, the s

Contact: Alexandra Bassil
University of Miami

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