Scientists haven’t been able to record a baby great white shark in the wild until now, it seems. According to National Geographic, professional photographer Carlos Gauna and biologist Phillip Sternes recorded what they believe is a newborn great white shark shedding off white film from its body off the coast of California.
Why do scientists think it’s a baby great white shark?
Gauna and Sternes also released their study of this video in the journal Environmental Biology of Fishes. While they do hypothesize that this could be a newborn white shark, they also say that there is a possibility this could be a great white shark with an unknown skin disorder.
According to CNN, an adult great white shark is gray on top and white underneath, while this one was an odd white color all around. An adult great white shark can also grow up to 21 feet long, per National Geographic.
With these facts in consideration, Gauna and Sternes enlisted the help of James Worthington from the University of San Diego to help them determine the size of their shark — and came back with a result of almost five feet in length, per BBC.
They also noticed how their shark had rounded fins, a feature not seen on adult great white sharks, and came to the conclusion that what they must be seeing is a baby white shark considering its small size, white coloring and rounded fins, per CNN, all features of great white shark newborns.
So why are some scientists having doubts?
The video is already considered a great advancement for shark research, but scientists can’t jump to a conclusion just yet.
As said in their study, Gauna and Sternes also acknowledged the possibility that this shark could be a great white with an unknown skin condition.
According to BBC, Dr. Chris Lowe from the shark lab at California State University said that the video is definitely interesting, but more evidence is needed to conclude it is actually a baby shark, such as finding out if the shark was in an official pupping area for great whites.
Another scientist, Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the University of Florida, said in an email to CNN that great white sharks normally have eight to 12 pups at a time, so there should’ve been more than just the one.
But even the nature of great whites giving birth hasn’t been fully concluded by researchers. According to CNN, some scientists believe great white sharks can be born in shallow waters, while others believe it must happen in deeper depths.
And since this was only a video, scientists can only make speculations of what was actually flaking off the small shark. In an email to National Geographic, Sternes suggests that the white stuff coming off the shark could be uterine milk from its mother, but what’s extremely important is that “white shark birthing locations have remained extremely elusive for the scientific community. We think we have a piece to the puzzle now. If this is a birthing location, conservation aspects must be considered.”