Great White Shark Cannibal Devours Its Cousin

Marine scientists from Virginia caught a great white in an act of shark-on-shark violence.

The 12-13 foot-long beast chowed down on a smaller blacktip shark in the midst of the researchers' tangled fishing lines, the Virginian-Pilot reported Monday.

Virginia Institute of Marine Science researchers hooked 41 sharks at a station some four miles from Sandbridge on Friday, according to a statement on their website. As they pulled in their haul, the great white shark emerged from the water and launched itself on a four-foot long blacktip. The great white sunk its teeth into the smaller shark before fleeing the scene.

6_12_Hungry Great White Shark
Mature male great white shark (estimated length between 12 and 13 ft) chases a 4-foot blacktip shark after being caught on the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s Shark Monitoring and Assessment Program longline approximately 3.5 miles off the coast of Sandbridge, VA. K O’Brien/ Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

"When the [great white shark] came up, we noticed that lines were all tangled," said VIMS graduate student Kaitlyn O'Brien in the institute's statement. "[Marine engineer Keith Mayer] yelled 'Something big down there's messing it up.'"

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This was the second great white sighting in two days for VIMS researchers, who had caught a smaller great white the day before. "I didn't believe [marine scientist Jeff Eckert] at first and I had to lean over the rail to see it myself," O'Brien said of Thursday's shark surprise.

Thursday's great white was only the fifth ever caught by VIMS researchers in 45 years, making Friday's hungry shark all the more exciting. "When we saw the head, it was huge compared to the first one," O'Brien said. "We were all kind of in shock—it was once in a lifetime."

Robert Latour, who directs VIMS' Shark Monitoring and Assessment Program said in the statement that, although unusual, spotting two great whites in two days didn't suggest anything was amiss with the creatures. "It's a rare occurrence, but not really any more meaningful than seeing two pink cars going down the road," Latour said.

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Researchers with VIMS take to the seas once a month between June and September to survey the local shark population. The team tag sharks and take DNA samples before releasing them.

It has been a dramatic week for these magnificent creatures. While the VIMS reasearchers were thrilled to spy so many impressive specimens, rescue volunteers in Australia were horrified to find a shark's head impaled on the wall of their marine rescue facility. Marine Rescue Shellharbour reported the incident on Facebook, writing: "If this is a statement then it's been misdirected."