The first sighting of a newborn great white shark has been revealed in a new image that captured a five-foot-long all-white predator swimming off the coast of California.
The newborn great white shark was believed to be just hours old when scientists spotted it just 300 meters off Santa Barbara Beach.
Researchers at the University of California, Riverside captured the astonishing photograph that reveals that the newborn was losing its embryonic layer.
Where great white sharks give birth has always been a mystery as scientists have been unable to track their location, but on July 9, 2023, luck smiled on two filmmakers who were scanning the area for sharks.
A newborn great white shark believed to be only a few hours old was filmed off the coast of Santa Barbara, California in 2023.
“The place where great white sharks give birth is one of the holy grails of shark science,” said wildlife filmmaker Carols Gauna, who took the photographs along with UC Riverside doctoral student Phillip Sternes.
«No one has been able to determine precisely where they are born, nor has anyone seen a newborn baby shark alive.
‘Dead white sharks have been found inside deceased pregnant mothers. But nothing like this.’
Gauna has watched the Santa Barbara coast for years and filmed probably pregnant great white sharks, but while the area is proposed as a possible birthplace, this is the first time there is evidence.
The two filmmakers acknowledged that the shark’s molt could have been a skin condition, but they do not believe this is the case because it has not been previously reported for this type of shark.
“If that’s what we saw, then it’s also monumental, because a similar condition has never been reported in these sharks,” Gauna said.
However, the filmmakers believe the cub could have been leaking embryonic fluid, which is probably because it was only a few hours old.
Gauna said he saw three pregnant great white sharks in the area in the days before filming the newborn pup.
“I filmed three very large sharks that looked pregnant in this specific location in the days before,” Gauna said.
«That day, one of them dove in and, shortly after, this all-white shark appeared.
‘It’s not difficult to figure out where the baby came from.
“This could well be the first evidence we have of a cub in the wild, making it a definitive location for birth.”
If the site is indeed a breeding ground, measures may need to be taken to preserve and protect the species that was internationally labeled as endangered in 2006.
Great white sharks live around the world, but their species is threatened by poaching and fishing.
While its population is difficult to track, the species declined by approximately 80 percent in North America, prompting the United States to implement laws protecting great white sharks.
Great white sharks are the most studied shark species in the world, and a report by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) revealed that two-thirds of the species are at risk of extinction.
“If we don’t do anything, it will be too late,” Nick Dulvy, a biologist and co-author of a 2021 study on global shark declines, told CNN last year.
He added: “It’s much worse than other animal populations we’ve been looking at.”
What makes the great white shark unique is their slow reproductive rate because they can take decades to reach reproductive age, can have pregnancies that last up to three years, and produce small litters, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Since the laws were first introduced in the 1990s, the great white shark population has been increasing in the northwest Atlantic and may no longer be endangered in U.S. waters, NOAA reported.
Speaking about the newborn white shark, Sternes said: “Further research is needed to confirm that these waters are indeed a breeding ground for white sharks.”
“But if so, we would want lawmakers to step in and protect these waters to help white sharks continue to thrive.”