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Shark scars tell the story of battles in the big blue

The Sun, November 25, 2021 6:30PM Kids News

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Underwater cinematographer Dean Spraakman captured footage of a battered looking shark off the coast of the Neptune Islands in South Australia. Picture: Sea Dragon Films media_cameraUnderwater cinematographer Dean Spraakman captured footage of a battered looking shark off the coast of the Neptune Islands in South Australia. Picture: Sea Dragon Films

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Stunning images have captured a battered great white shark covered in scars and bite marks – evidence* of years of battle.

The giant predator* was spotted swimming near the Neptune Islands in South Australia, an area known to be home to an estimated 1000 great whites.

The images show the injured shark with marks all over its skin swimming among other small fish.

Underwater cinematographer* Dean Spraakman, who captured the impressive pictures during an filming expedition* in January, said despite his injuries, the 3.3m male shark was incredibly “friendly”.

media_cameraThere are multiple theories to explain the shark’s impressive scars, including underwater battles to survive. Picture: Sea Dragon Films

He said the film crew could not be certain of what may have caused these marks, as no one had come across a shark so badly injured before.

Mr Spraakman said they initially thought the scars might have been caused by boat propellers or perhaps the shark had been caught in tuna pens in the area, but they quickly dismissed both theories.

“No one has ever seen a shark in a condition like this before,” Mr Spraakman said.

“We see sometimes down there the white sharks tracking stingrays because they hunt and eat them and we thought they chase them into shallow reef areas where it’s quite sharp and it might get stuck and cause that sort of damage.

“You can only speculate* what happened there and to be honest no one … ever really knows what causes that sort of damage to a shark, but the poor guy had a bit of a hard time, I think.

“I noticed he had scars on him but I didn’t realise to what length until I reviewed the footage later.

“He was very calm and coming close and quite curious, which was great. He was really friendly, just very calm and wasn’t aggravated from everything he’s been through.

“He came very close, within an arm’s reach from me – sometimes when you get a good shark like that, they just want to come and look you in the eye, just have a really good look at who you are.”

media_cameraUnderwater cinematographer Dean Spraakman described the 3.3m apex predator as “friendly”. Picture: Sea Dragon Films

However, National Geographic explorer Professor Yannis Papastamatiou said some of the marks might also have been caused by a fight with another shark.

“Females are often heavily scarred from mating behaviour but males can get bitten as well during dominance* interactions between sharks – for example, a larger shark may want a smaller shark and dominate the smaller individual with a non-fatal warning bite,” he said.

“Some of the scarrings around the face may also be caused by their prey, such as seals.”

The Neptune Islands are a well known venue for great white shark tourism.

Great white sharks can reach more than 6m long, such as Deep Blue, the biggest great white ever recorded, weighing in a whopping 2.5 tonnes.

The gigantic female was last spotted swimming dangerously close to a pair of brave divers in Guadalupe, Mexico.

The coasts of Australia, California and South Africa are among the most popular great white shark hot spots, but there have been occasions when the predators have been spotted in the Mediterranean as well.

media_cameraJudging from these scars on the great white shark’s belly, the aquatic life is hard work even if you’re sitting at the top of the food chain. Picture: Sea Dragon Films

These striking new images come after a diver was caught on camera trying to stop a great white shark from breaking the glass of his protective cage.

The incident took place near Guadalupe Island off the west coast of Mexico, where the lucky scuba diver was eventually able to fend off the seven sharks that were circling him.

This article originally appeared in The Sun and has been reproduced with permission.

GLOSSARY

  • evidence: proof, confirmation, verification
  • predator: animal that lives by killing and eating other animals
  • cinematographer: person who directs photography and camera work in filmmaking
  • expedition: journey, voyage, field trip, tour
  • speculate: theorise, hypothesise, make an educated guess
  • dominance: superiority, supremacy, state of having the most control and power

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. Where was this great white shark spotted?
  2. The area is known to be home to approximately how many great whites?
  3. What was the estimated length of the shark?
  4. What is the name, length and approximate weight of the biggest great white ever recorded?
  5. How many sharks circled the scuba diver in a protective cage in one recent encounter?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. What happened?
If the scarred shark could tell you their story, what do you think they would say? Imagine you are the shark. Write the story of your life and experiences.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science

2. Extension
Why is it important to study great white sharks? Write a persuasive paragraph. Your purpose is to convince your readers that this is very important.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science

VCOP ACTIVITY
The battle of the brave
A shark battle would be very scary to witness. I’m not sure I would be brave enough to watch. Speaking of being brave, how about taking close up photos of potentially dangerous animals for a job! That would be a battle of willpower.

Have you ever had to be brave? Write a personal response about a time you have had to overcome your fear and be courageous.

What happened?

How did you feel before/during/after the event?

Would you do it again?

Make sure you use emotive language to express your feeling. Re-read your writing aloud to see how it sounds and if you can edit and up-level further before sharing with a peer.

Extra Reading in animals