A massive great white shark called Mrs Moo has been photographed in the Southern Ocean, off the southern Australian coast.
The adult female threw her head back, clamped* her gills* tightly shut and aimed her 5.2m-long body at the surface of the water off the coast of the Neptune Islands, South Australia.
Photographer and shark researcher Andrew Fox took the amazing photo.
Mrs Moo is thought to be between 20 and 25 years old and has been a frequent visitor to South Australia over the years. Researchers easily recognise her.
They have noticed she likes her own company and is not very interested in the antics* of younger males.
“She doesn’t want to mix it up with the riff-raff*, the young males charging around looking for fur seals to eat,” Mr Fox said.
“Big females like her do their own thing. The young males, they’re a bit like fighter jets — they can get in closer to the rocks and get those fur seals.”
Mr Fox and the crew on Rodney Fox Shark Expeditions identify individual great whites by their scars, damaged dorsal* fins and the patterns that form on the countershading* line that runs along the animal’s body. Mrs Moo is quite distinct*.
“She has a white patch behind her eye and this big, muscular jaw — she’s unique*,” Mr Fox said.
It has been a tricky year for shark-spotting tour businesses in the Port Lincoln area in South Australia, with low shark numbers and rough weather making life difficult.
“Winter used to be our best time, but there just haven’t been many sharks around this year at all,” Mr Fox said.
“Throw in huge swells* and winds of up to 133km an hour and it makes things pretty challenging.”
GREAT WHITE SHARKS
- Scientific name Carcharodon carcharias.
- Also called great whites, white sharks or white pointers.
- Found all around the world except in the Arctic and Antarctic. They are mostly found in cooler water close to the coast.
- They grow to about 4.6m long, but can grow to 6m.
- Their streamlined* shape and powerful tail makes them very fast. They can swim at more than 60km an hour.
- They have 300 sharp, triangular teeth in seven rows.
- The species is listed as vulnerable* and is protected in Australian waters. Humans hunt these sharks illegally around the world.
- Great whites are at the top of the food chain or food web (so are an apex* predator). This means they have no natural predators, except occasionally killer whales.
- They eat sea lions, seals and small whales.
- Great whites do not hunt humans. There are a few attacks on Australian beaches each year, but researchers believe the sharks are just curious and occasionally take a “sample bite” before swimming away.
- Sharks that could be dangerous for humans are kept away from many popular Australian beaches with government shark control programs that use nets and baited hooks, called drumlines. Helicopters, planes and drones also patrol the water at popular beaches so people can get out of the water if there is a shark around.
Source: National Geographic Kids
clamped: held tightly
gills: slits on the side of fish that are the breathing organs, like our lungs
antics: foolish behaviour
dorsal: on the back
countershading: protective colouring, which in sharks is dark on the back and light on the underside
distinct: recognisably different
unique: nothing else like it
swells: waves out at sea that don’t break, but boats move up and down in
streamlined: shape that moves easily through air or water
vulnerable: exposed to the possibility of being endangered or threatened
apex: at the top
LISTEN TO TODAY’S STORY
1. How long is Mrs Moo?
2. How old do researchers think she is?
3. What features help researchers know particular sharks? What are Mrs Moo’s features?
4. How fast can great whites swim?
5. Do they have predators? Why are they protected?
1. Mrs Moo facts
On an A3 sheet of paper, draw an outline of Mrs Moo that takes up most of the page. Carefully cut out Mrs Moo. On the reverse side of Mrs Moo write down some dot-point facts that you have learnt about her from reading the article. This could include: the species of shark she is; her size; how old she is; how she behaves; her distinctive features; the food she eats; how fast she can travel; etc.
Once you have completed the facts about Mrs Moo you can continue drawing and colouring her features on the front of your cut-out shape.
2. Extra resources: A3 paper or card
Extension: Help others understand the size of Mrs Moo by drawing a picture of her alongside some other common objects so that your picture shows her size in comparison to the other items. Some examples are given below. Use these to help you but please make up some of your own ones.
Perhaps your family has a car that is 5m. Draw a picture of Mrs Moo and a picture of your car below her, showing that she is slightly longer than your car.
Maybe your desk is 1.5m. Draw a picture of Mrs Moo and then 3 and a half of your desks lined up beneath her to show that she is approximately the length of 3 and a half desks.
Time: Allow 30 minutes
Curriculum links: English, Science, Mathematics
With a partner see if you can you identify all the doing words/verbs in this text. Highlight them in yellow and then make a list of them all down your page. Now see if you and your partner can come up with a synonym for the chosen verb. Make sure it still makes sense in the context it was taken from.
Try to replace some of the original verbs with your synonyms and discuss if any are better and why.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you think great whites should be caught if they go near beaches where people are swimming? No one-word answers. Use full sentences.