Great White Shark 'Ironbound' Is Heading to the Gulf of Mexico—The Opposite Direction to Other Tagged Predators

A 12-foot-long great white shark named "Ironbound" appears to be heading into the Gulf of Mexico when other tagged members of its species are moving in the other direction.

According to tracking data collected by non-profit OCEARCH, Ironbound last "pinged" yesterday morning just south of the Florida Keys. His previous ping was recorded just off the coast of South Carolina earlier this month.

OCEARCH has been catching sharks for several years, tagging them with monitoring devices and conducting other tests for research purposes.

The trackers fitted to the sharks "ping" when the dorsal fins of the animals break the surface of the water, transmitting a signal to a satellite overhead.

"This is interesting, while most of the sharks on the Tracker are slowly moving north or at least staying put, white shark Ironbound is going against the flow. A new ping today suggests he might be considering a trip into the Gulf of Mexico," OCEARCH wrote in a Twitter post.

OCEARCH's research has revealed that great whites living off the coast of North America often migrate thousands of miles from more northerly regions of the Atlantic to the warmer waters around Georgia, the Carolinas and Florida in the winter months.

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Ironbound, for example, was first tagged by OCEARCH researchers last fall in the waters off West Ironbound Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. Since then, the 998-pound male has traveled more than 2,700 miles along the North American coast.

The tracking data indicates that the shark traveled all the way down to the tip of Florida before deciding to move north again. However, Ironbound seems to have had a change of heart, making a U-turn in order to head back towards the Gulf. It is currently not clear why.

The OCEARCH team say that Ironbound was a particularly challenging shark to catch and haul onto the research vessel.

great white shark, Ironbound
An image of the great white shark Ironbound on the OCEARCH research vessel. OCEARCH

"Our Fishing Master Captain Brett McBride said that [this] was one of the toughest sharks he has seen, especially considering [its] size," OCEARCH Expedition Leader Chris Fischer previously told Newsweek. "At 12 foot, 4 inches and right about 1,000 pounds, [it] fought like some of the much bigger sharks we've encountered in places like Guadalupe Island, Mexico and South Africa that were 15 feet long or more."

Once sharks have been lifted onto the OCEARCH research vessel, scientists tag them with a monitoring device and carry out a number of tests before releasing the animal.

"We take a variety of samples including, but not limited to, blood samples, semen samples, muscles samples, bacteria samples, fecal samples and much more," Fischer said. "The samples are used to support 32 researchers from 22 different institutions working on 18 separate research projects around the continent."

Great White Shark 'Ironbound' Is Heading to the Gulf of Mexico—The Opposite Direction to Other Tagged Predators | Tech & Science