It’s been a time of big news for our country! I’m sure you’ve all been overloaded with the news lately, but let’s talk BIG shark news! Last week in Florida, one of the biggest great white sharks ever recorded, tagged, and measured was spotted near the Florida Keys, off of Key Largo. The shark is ID’ed as “Unama’ki.” This name means land of the fog to the indigenous Mi’kmaq people of Nova Scotia. Unama’ki was last seen about two months ago in Canada, near Nova Scotia. This great shite shark (or white shark) is about 15 feet in length and weighs around 2,000 pounds.
More About the Greats
We heard this wonderful news from OCEARCH. OCEARCH is a non-profit that works to research and conserve sharks and marine habitats. Of the 400+ animals they’ve tagged, Unama’ki is the second-largest great white shark. OCEARCH has tracked her annual route and helps spread information, enthusiasm, and awareness for great white sharks and their migratory behavior. Watch a video of her tagging process from 2019, here.
About a year ago, I wrote a blog post (click here) where a group of six white sharks, including Unama’ki, were all spotted off near the Florida coast. In OCEARCH’s post, they say, “she’s right on schedule.” This further confirms that although we are still skimming the surface of what we know about white sharks, perhaps we can anticipate and look for individuals following their migratory patterns. Unama’ki, like other white sharks, has the incredible ability to maintain an internal body temperature higher than her surrounding oceanic environment. This ability is attained through countercurrent heat exchange, making these sharks partially endothermic. Furthermore, this allows them to migrate in search of food in a variety of places and temperatures.
The scientific name for great white sharks, or white sharks, is Carcharodon carcharias. Their genus is Carcharodon and the species in carcharias. Carcharodon came from a Greek word, “karcharos,” which means sharpen and “odous” means teeth! Carcharias comes from a Greek word meaning point. In Australia, many locals refer to the white shark as “white pointer.”
Additionally, the “white” part of great white sharks, or white sharks, comes from their white underbelly. This lighter color on their belly enables them to have countershading. Countershading is a form of camouflage and can be helpful for white sharks when hunting or avoiding other predators (when they are younger or smaller). The white on the bellies blends in with the lighter color of the ocean’s surface as the sun shines through. The darker gray color on their bodies and top blends in with the darker ocean floor if you’re looking at the white shark from above them. Voila! Countershading.
Our Work Continues
As we continue our enthusiasm for marine diversity, sustainable lifestyles, and the joy of spreading awareness for wildlife, please keep sharks in mind. White sharks are one of the most iconic species in the world. Without apex predators like the white shark, the entire ocean ecosystem would collapse. Whether you are sorting through fears and turning that fright into respect, or you’ve admired and loved sharks for years, it’s important to always keep learning. To read more about how sharks (and rays) help make the world a better place, read this article from the World Wildlife Fund here.
When we hear about a sighting of a great white shark, we may feel a myriad of emotions. These sightings aren’t always frequent, but the perils and plights they face are ever present. White sharks are still hunted and caught by humans for their teeth, jaws, bodies for trophies, fins for shark-fin soup, skin, livers, etc. When they are not directly hunted, they become injured or killed as a product of bycatch.
Ultimately, we all have the power to help marine conservation efforts. If you’re reading this right now you’ve already helped sharks by learning more about them and creating awareness within your community. In addition to your own knowledge, you can continue to reduce your seafood consumption, only support sustainable seafood practices, avoid shark products, lower your carbon footprint, write to your legislators about marine wildlife protection, respect the ocean at all times, and support businesses and nonprofits that help sharks and the ocean. Learn more about ways to help here. Thanks for reading, and have a GREAT week!
Written By: Bailey Higa