Photographer Jalil Najafov took the photo of a lifetime while diving in Isla Guadalupe, Mexico: He spotted a gigantic great white female shark with a ring of teeth marks around her side, encompassing her entire chest. The shocking photo garnered significant attention on social media.
"On rare occasions, during mating season among sharks, 'mating scars' appear on female sharks' bodies caused by the males holding onto them. ... These scars are mostly deeper cuts and punctures, indicating a more forceful motivation such as coercive mating from the male's side," said Najafov, who captured the image in early December. He added photos of other female sharks he had photographed with large bite marks.
But experts he talked to believed the big bite taken of the 15-foot female shark weren't convinced that the bite was from a mating scar.
Tristan Guttridge, a behavioral ecologist and wildlife presenter for Discovery's Shark Week, told Najafov that he didn't believe the bite was from mating.
"Due to position as the wound [sic] looks like it's healed a fair bit and although mating scars can be nasty they are more superficial than that. The shape of it to me likely indicates a bite from another shark - seems a bit extreme for defense," he quoted Guttridge as saying.
Michael Domeier, another Discovery presenter and director of the nonprofit Marine Conservation Science Institute, told Najafov that he was "confident this is competitive aggression. I keep hearing people…describe this sort of thing as territorial aggression, but these highly migratory sharks don't have a traditional territory."
"That scar will heal to the point it won't be a good distinguishing mark," the expert said, per Najafov's post.
Najafov said that he was "very lucky" to have spotted and photographed the scar before it fully healed.
Giant female great whites aren't out of the norm. A, meaning "Queen of the Ocean," who researchers believed to be more than 50 years old, was tagged in October of 2020.
"When you see these big females like that that have scars from decades over their lives and multiple mating cycles, you can really kinda see the story of their life unfolding across all the blotches and healed wounds on their body," team leader Chris Fischer told CBS News' Jeff Glor in 2020. "It really hits you differently thank you would think."
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