Great whites have long been known as cold-blooded killers and man-eaters. But new research shows that these sharks actually scavenge whale carcasses for food from time to time.
A team wrote in the journal PLoS ONE about how they documented as many as 40 different sharks scavenging on a carcass over the course of a single day. The study summarized observations based on four scavenging events over a 10-year period. During each observation, the team recorded daily evidence of social, aggregative and feeding behaviors observed in the waters off South Africa.
The researchers believe that although the occurrence of coming upon a whale carcass is rare, the Great white shark populations are prepared to scavenge on them and may even forgo regular feeding activities to do so.
“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 University of Miami (UM) scientist Dr. Neil Hammerschlag, who is director of the R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program (RJD) at UM.