Tuesday, January 30, 2024
A newborn great white shark was recently photographed for the first time by wildlife photographer and videographer Carlos Gauna, shortly after it was born.
"I want to kind of tell the story of what sharks do when we aren't watching, we aren't interacting with them when we're not touching them," he told CBS News. "... And through that experience, I've seen some sharks doing some really wild things, things that have no explanation. ... You never know what you're going to see."
Great white sharks have a gestation period of over a year, with mother sharks carrying two to 10 pups at a time. These ovoviviparous animals hatch within their bodies but emerge through live birth after fully developing.
Gauna and his partner, University of California, Riverside, biology doctoral student Phillip Sternes, observed a large shark go down underwater around 1,000 feet from shore using a drone, last year in Santa Barbara.
Despite being told that white sharks only give birth in deeper waters, the discovery of great white sharks' birthing habits remains largely unknown.
"Just a few minutes later, this little bitty thing comes up from that spot," he said, adding that at first, they thought the roughly five-foot-long nearly purely white animal may have been an albino shark.
Then he played back the video and noticed a white film sloughing off the shark as it swam.
"I think Phil's words were, 'Oh my God, I think that might be a newborn,'" he said.
Gaun’s findings which were peer-reviewed and published Monday in the journal Environmental Biology of Fishes state that they witnessed the newborn shark shedding intrauterine milk.
A 2022 study found that white sharks produce uterine milk, a lipid-rich secretion for embryonic nutrition.
The shark's size, shape, and presence of pregnant sharks in the area suggest it was a newborn, with a five-foot long, known size for newborn great whites, and a short, rounded fin.
Finding a newborn shark is a crucial component in shark science, especially for great whites, as they are considered vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.