It could be the first sighting in the world of a baby white shark, documented in a video taken last summer along the California coast by director Carlos Gauna and biologist Phillip Sternes of the University of California at Riverside.
The frames, published in the journal Environmental Biology of Fishes, show a one and a half meter long specimen probably born a few hours ago. Its presence could solve one of the greatest mysteries of white sharks, namely the location of the nurseries where the females go to give birth.
“The place where they give birth is a sort of Holy Grail of shark science: no one has ever been able to pinpoint where they are born, nor has they ever seen a newborn pup alive,” says Gauna, known for his nature videos which he publishes online under the pseudonym 'The Malibu Artist'. When he reviewed the footage he had shot with a drone near Santa Barbara last July, he was astounded. “We enlarged the images, put them in slow motion and saw the white layer that detached itself from the body while swimming,” adds Sternes. “I believe it was a newborn white shark that lost its embryonic layer”, probably the residue of the uterine milk that nourished it before coming to light.
According to Gauna and Sternes, there are several clues that suggest that it was indeed a baby white shark, first of all the presence in the same area of several very large adult specimens, probably pregnant females. Precisely on the day the video was recorded, one of these specimens had sunk and shortly afterwards the completely white puppy appeared.
The same Californian location where the sighting occurred has long been proposed as the birthplace of great white sharks. The fact that the cub was filmed so close to shore, just 300 meters from the beach, suggests that it may have been born in shallow water.
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