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Great white shark spotting off the coast of Cape Town has dropped off massively in recent years, with a number of factors linked to the predator’s gradual disappearance.
According to one expert panel, orca predation, particularly from the infamous duo of Port and Starboard, is one of the leading causes of the disappearance.
Respected marine scientists still maintain that overfishing of smaller species has also played a role.
It’s a different story up in Mossel Bay, where a new study published in the journal Environmental Biology of Fishes looked at more than 3 000 shark sightings.
Researchers were looking to find out if great whites used different habitats during various stages of life, reports Sky News:
More than four out of five great white sharks spotted in the bay were juveniles, measuring between 1.75m and 3m in length.
No adult sharks were seen but researchers spotted “sub-adults”, which measure between 3.1m and 3.6m.
The researchers said the bay offers a sheltered environment for young sharks, with prey such as fish, rays, seals and small whales.
They believe that the juvenile sharks are using the area to learn how to hunt without having to worry about competition from larger sharks.
Essentially, the research suggests that young great whites used the area to fine-tune their hunting skills.
In addition to a pattern in the size of the sharks, researchers also noted that just under 7% of the great whites were males, making it likely that females prefer protected bays when they want to avoid harassment from mating males.
Here’s Dr Nicholas Ray, a researcher in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences:
“We know that these sharks have capacity for social learning, and the greater numbers of juveniles sighted throughout our study suggests that younger great whites have adopted this bay as a crucial nursery and potential training ground where they can learn to hunt in relative safety.
“It appears the sheltered conditions and abundance of food are ideal and serve to increase their growth and development and help them to avoid predation, competition and harassment from larger sharks.
“It would appear they’re using these waters to prepare for adulthood.”
Dr Ray hoped that the research findings could aid in the protection of habitats which are pivotal to ensuring the survival of the species.
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