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Rare glimpse of newborn aquatic animal helps scientists solve one of the ocean's greatest mysteries

During his countless hours of filming aquatic animals off the California coast, a wildlife photographer captured something unusual.

Rare glimpse of newborn aquatic animal helps scientists solve one of the ocean's greatest mysteries
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | George Desipris

Despite the remarkable scientific advancements, a significant part of this world is still unexplored. Scientists and researchers have yet to uncover the mysteries of plants and wildlife that lie hidden in the deepest forests or under the unfathomable depths of the ocean where no man can go. However, a recent expedition off the coast of Southern California resulted in an unexpected finding about one of the extremely rare aquatic animals, the great white shark. An extremely rare sight of a newborn great white shark captured by Carlos Gauna (@themalibuartist), a wildlife photographer, had researchers wondering if it would solve one of the ocean's greatest mysteries.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Daniel Torobekov
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Daniel Torobekov

In a study published in the journal Environmental Biology of Fishes, Gauna and co-author Phillip Sternes, an organismal biologist at the University of California, Riverside explained the possibility of the great white caught on camera to be a newborn. "Because most of the scientific community believed filming a newborn so close to shore wasn’t likely, I didn’t expect to find anything," said Gauna to NewScientist. A pale white 1.5-meter-long shark was spotted in an aerial drone camera on July 9, 2023, nearly half a kilometer from the coast of Carpinteria, CA. Speaking to the Washington Post, Tobey Curtis, a shark ecologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who was not a part of this study said, "Observations of free-swimming newborn white sharks are extremely rare, and any new video or photographic evidence may be very valuable."


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Carlos Gauna 🦈🐳🌌 (@themalibuartist)


 

This great white shark had a thin white film covering its body. "The whitish film is leftover intrauterine substances being sloughed off the shark due to it being a newborn shark or the whitish film is due to an unknown skin disorder that has not been reported in white sharks before in the published literature," read the inferences of the study. The study stated a few reasons why the great white recorded could be a newborn. Its size was within the newborn range and its fins had rounded tips which was a typical feature of a near-term shark embryo. Also, this shark was caught on camera in the specific area and time that was proposed for great white shark births. The photographer had also noticed a few adult great whites in the same area previously.


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Carlos Gauna 🦈🐳🌌 (@themalibuartist)


 

Considering the impracticality of finding a newborn great white shark, some researchers assume that the shark spotted by Gauna may be young but not necessarily a newborn. Christopher Lowe, director of the Shark Lab at California State University, Long Beach, who was not a part of the study, shared that he supports the ''skin condition" theory because though the fish was "definitely a young shark," it couldn't have been a newborn great white. So, researchers are expecting to find more evidence to test the two theories. 

Gauna shared the footage of the young shark on Instagram on Wednesday expressing his disbelief over the amazing response this discovery received from the scientific world. Being hopeful about the further endeavors in studying great white newborns, Gauna wrote, "The birth of any organism is an amazing thing. A sacred place. We will film a white shark giving birth eventually. For now, we’ll take this breadcrumb, a clue, to motivate us to keep searching and most importantly, keep preserving this place we call our home.

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