Researchers tag and release Weimar, a mature male tiger shark
Hilton, Weimar, Savannah and Beaufort are just your average 21st century sharks.
Twitter account? Check. Adoring fans? Check.
Their claim to relative social media fame isn’t from a gnarly bite or a sky-high jump out of water. They’re the four tagged sharks of OCEARCH’s Expedition Lowcountry into waters near Georgia and the Carolinas in order to gather data on the ecology and behavior of great white sharks and other large sharks in the North Atlantic Ocean, expanding the sample size of the predators since research began in the Cape Cod area in 2012.
OCEARCH and its resources allow researchers to conduct tests and obtain samples in a 15-minute period from live sharks, typically lifting them using a hydraulic lift. Their 28th expedition collaborated with 18 scientists from 15 institutions over three weeks, including Dr. Robert Hueter of Mote Marine Laboratory, who was on board the M/V OCEARCH vessel from Feb. 26 through March 5.
First to be fitted with a satellite tag was Hilton, a 1,326-pound, 12.5-foot adult male great white shark. Then came 9.4-foot Weimar, a 304-pound adult male tiger shark. Savannah, an 8.5-foot juvenile female great white shark weighing 460 pounds, was tagged third, and a juvenile male tiger shark named Beaufort, at 100 pounds and 5.5 feet long, was fourth.
The scientists took samples of blood, bacteria and DNA from three of the sharks as well as analyzed the sharks’ outer shape.
They already had some interesting findings during the data-gathering process: For the first time, they caught a great white and tiger shark on the same day in the same area.
“It is so interesting that we found a cooler water, more coastal predator — the white shark — and a warmer water, more offshore predator — the tiger shark — sharing the same space,” said Chris Fischer, OCEARCH Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader.
Hueter found Hilton particularly interesting.
“Finding a male white shark ready to mate off South Carolina in winter goes against our concept of when and where these sharks mate,” Hueter said in a press release. “This is what makes this work so important, the discovery of new knowledge and disproving some old ideas about the life cycle of these sharks.”
Aside from their individual Twitter accounts, the tagged sharks can be tracked whenever their dorsal fins come out of the water through OCREACH’s Global Shark Tracker, available online or as an app. Just don’t let the dozens and dozens of dots, representing individual sharks, scare you — there are plenty more out there.