Great White Shark With Massive Bite on Head Was Attacked by Even Bigger Shark off U.S. Coast, Expert Says

Marine researchers have released a photo of a 1,000 pound great white shark, whose head appears to have been bitten by a bigger rival during a "violent" fight for a mate.

On Monday, OCEARCH published the image of a great white shark which they had caught, tagged and released in the North Atlantic Ocean, between Pennsylvania and Connecticut. They named him Vimy.

OCEARCH collects data in the ocean by tracking and studying apex predators like great white sharks as well as other marine species.

"White sharks live in a tough world. Need proof? Check out white shark Vimy's head," the group wrote on its Facebook page, alongside the photo which was shot during an expedition on October 4, according to McClatchy.

While one bite appeared to be "pretty well-healed," according to OCEARCH, "the other is very fresh."

OCEARCH runs an online shark tracker, and invited the public to use it to follow Vimy's movements.

OCEARCH's Chris Fischer told Newsweek that Vimy measured 12 ft 9 in, slightly smaller than the average 15ft to 20ft the species grows, and weighed 1,164 pounds.

"That said, Vimy is one of the larger males we've encountered in the Northwest Atlantic ocean," he said.

As white sharks can heal quickly, Fischer believes Vimy was attacked within a week of OCEARCH finding him.

great white shark, vimy, north atlantic, ocearch
Vimy the great white shark pictured during a tagging mission on October 4. OCEARCH

Judging by the size of the tooth marks and jawspan of the injuries, it is likely the attacker was bigger than Vimy, Fischer said.

Fischer, the founding chairman of the organization, explained: "It appeared something bit onto his entire head."

The healed bite on the lower jaw was likely much older, he said. The newer bite was on the top of Vimy's head.

"It is hard to say what caused the encounter between Vimy and the suspected other shark. It could have been competition over a food source between Vimy and another male or female shark. Or it could possibly have been some kind of mating encounter, since it's well documented that mating behaviors in sharks are very violent.

"Often females are larger than the males and so the bite could have come from a female who did not want to mate," suggested Fischer, who said it's unlikely the rival was trying to eat Vimy.

Sharks like Vimy, Fischer continued, are under threat from plastic and marine debris.

"They sit at the top of the food chain and so any contamination that enters the oceans eventually works its way up to the sharks. People can help by limiting single-use plastics," he said.

Since its first expedition to Guadalupe Island, Mexico, in 2007, some 174 scientists working with OCEARCH have tagged over 400 animals across 34 missions in just one boat.

A few weeks ago, OCEARCH spotted a 17-ft great white shark, which would have been the largest of the species the group had tagged in the Northeast Atlantic, according to Fischer. Unfortunately, it vanished before researchers could attach a tracking device, McClatchy reported.

As recently showcased in the Nat Geo WILD documentary Cannibal Sharks, some will go further than just biting. Shocking footage in the show depicted a shark who had almost been bitten in half by another shark.

Michael Heithaus, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Florida International University who appeared on the documentary, told Newsweek earlier this year: "Sharks eat other sharks more often than most people might think. For some species of large sharks, like bull sharks, great hammerheads, and tiger sharks, smaller sharks are a favorite prey item."

He explained sharks have been known to cannibalize smaller individuals of the same species. "The reason that a lot of species have nursery areas in shallow protected waters is to stay safe from larger sharks that would eat them until they grow big enough to be safe," he said.

This article has been updated with comment from Chris Fischer.

great white shark bite
The image of the great white shark with a bite on its head. Ocearch posted the image to its Facebook page and said the bite may have been the result of a violent encounter with another, bigger shark. Ocearch/R.Snow
Great White Shark With Massive Bite on Head Was Attacked by Even Bigger Shark off U.S. Coast, Expert Says | Tech & Science