A 12.5 foot great white shark named Hilton has turned up in the Gulf of Mexico and is swimming west from the the Florida Panhandle according to an article at The Huffington Post.
The shark, tagged by research group OCEARCH, has a device that “pings” a satellite every time the dorsal fin hits the surface and if it continues its current trajectory the shark could very well make it to coastal Texas.
At this point you might be confused.
Great whites in the Gulf?
Great whites in Texas?
It has happened before.
A paper entitled Seasonal Distribution and Historic Trends in Abundance of White Sharks in the Western North Atlantic published by PLOS ONE sheds some fascinating light on white shark populations in the past.
The study which examined great white sightings from a wide variety of sources from 1800 to 2010 showed the range of white shark occurrence extended from the north coast of Newfoundland to as far south as the British Virgin Islands, as far east as the Grand Banks and Bermuda, to as far west as the coast of Texas in the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, The book Sharks and Rays: Shadows of the Sea gives an account of three great whites caught off Port Aransas in 1952.
I have anecdotal evidence of great whites off the Texas coast in the recent past including one that circled a fishing guide’s boat out of Sabine Pass circa 2004.
The aforementioned study goes on to mention some interesting dietary habits of great whites in the Gulf.
“Analysis of white shark stomach contents from this region are extremely limited, however, documented prey items include dolphins, sharks, red drum, sea turtles, and squid.”
Great whites feeding on redfish might seem at odds with the images we see of them throwing sea lions into the air in the northern Pacific and off the coast of South Africa but as time goes on, it seems there is much to learn about these intensely apex predators.
We have already written on the great white’s comeback in the Gulf. Read by clicking here.
Now, we are waiting to see what happens in Texas.
Think you have seen a great white shark in Texas or Louisiana waters? If so email firstname.lastname@example.org with any stories, photos or video.
Chester Moore, Jr.