A great white shark with a GPS tracker drew a shark in the waters off the eastern coast of North America. Was he “punking” researchers? Telling us he knows what we’re up to? Do sharks mysteriously swim in shark-shaped patterns? Or are we just seeing what we want to see?
Don’t answer that – it’s not as funny if you do.
The unconventional artist
Art and creativity are typically deemed human endeavors. But perhaps they also belong to the great white shark who unwittingly sketched a self-portrait, using tracking data as its brush.
Our artist is a mature male great white shark, named Breton by the OCEARCH team. He’s a frequent wanderer off the Atlantic Ocean coast of Long Island, New York. As part of the shark tracking initiative, he carries a tracker affixed to his dorsal fin. This tracker collects and relays data whenever the shark surfaces, providing an almost real-time map of the shark’s movement.
Did the shark GPS tracker draw a shark?
A May 2022 observation of Breton’s tracking data offered an unexpected delight to the researchers. It seemed as though Breton had swum in a pattern that mirrored the outline of a great white shark when seen from above.
OCEARCH shared the data on its social media, and the internet quickly took notice.
The tracking path captured not only the body’s curve but also the classic angular shape of the tail and the pectoral fins. It sure looks like a shark!
Coincidence or Design?
As fascinating as Breton’s journey may seem, it is essential to underline that the ‘self-portrait’ was purely coincidental. Sharks navigate based on instincts and sensory information, not a predetermined design. Sorry if you needed to be told that – but people have been studying sharks for a long time. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the coincidence!
While the artistic byproduct is captivating, the primary purpose of tracking sharks like Breton is conservation. By learning about migration patterns, feeding areas, and breeding grounds, scientists can devise effective strategies to safeguard these creatures. The knowledge gained from such tracking can inform the establishment of marine protected areas and fishing regulations.
The good news is that Breton’s self-portrait can serve as a symbol for raising awareness about the threats facing great white sharks.
Issues like overfishing, habitat degradation, and climate change pose significant threats to these magnificent creatures. Breton’s story is an opportunity to engage the public and rally support for shark conservation.