Unama'ki the Monster Great White Has Arrived in Florida, May Lead Scientists to Baby Shark Nursery

A huge great white shark which weighs just over 2,000 pounds has arrived in Florida waters after a long journey from Canada in which it has swum along the entire length of the U.S. east coast, according to tracking data.

The creature—which measures 15 feet, 5 inches in length—was caught by researchers from non-profit OCEARCH near Nova Scotia, Canada, in September, WSOC reported.

The organization lifted the shark—dubbed Unama'ki—onto one of their research vessels in order to tag it, so that it can be tracked via satellite. This will enable scientists to monitor its movements and behavior.

Unama'ki is the second largest shark that OCEARCH has ever caught and tagged in the northwest Atlantic. Its name means "land of the fog" in the language of the Mi'kmaq First Nations people, which is what they call the area of Cape Breton where the animal was tagged.

Since being tagged, data shows that the shark headed south from Nova Scotia, hugging the U.S. coastline all the way down to the Florida Keys, where it was located on Saturday—a journey of around 2,000 miles.

During this journey, Unama'ki's tracker has pinged in several locations including the waters off Atlantic City in New Jersey and Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. The shark's journey could provide fascinating insights into the great white sharks which live in this region, according to OCEARCH.

"As a big mature female, Unama'ki has the potential to lead us to the site where she gives birth and exposes a new white shark nursery," the non-profit said.

OCEARCH is working together with SeaWorld as part of a collaborative project aimed at tracking where great whites congregate to breed and feed in the Atlantic region. The non-profit's research over the years has revealed that great whites in this region often migrate thousands of miles to the waters off Florida, the Carolinas and Georgia for the winter.

As a result of their research, the OCEARCH team now think that there are two sub-populations of white sharks in the northwest Atlantic: one that congregates in the area of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in the late summer and early fall, and another that aggregates in Canada.

"So in the study of the white shark in the northwest Atlantic, we're tracking these big animals all the way from Atlantic Canada to all the way down in the Florida peninsula," Robert Hunter, OCEARCH's chief science advisor, said in a Facebook post.

great white shark
A great white shark swims off the shore of Cape Cod, Massachusetts on July 13, 2019. JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty Images

"Something fascinating that we've noticed is that there are some animals that go to the Cape Cod area in the summertime to feed. And then there are others, that have bypassed cape cod and come up Nova Scotia to feed," he said. "So right now we are looking at the possibility of two distinct groups or subpopulations of white sharks in the northwest Atlantic."

Hunter says this is just a hypothesis for now. Further research, such as genetic testing of the two proposed populations and analysis of tracking data, will be required to confirm the idea.

Great white sharks are normally thought of as being largely solitary animals. However, a study published revealed for the first time that the predators may purposefully form "communities" and consistently spend time with certain groups, according to a study published in the journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

While they are mostly solitary, the animals do sometimes congregate in some locations. For example, scientists already knew that large numbers of great whites periodically flock to certain areas, depending on the season, to hunt baby seals in their colonies.

In fact, there is even a place in the Pacific Ocean known as the "White Shark Café"—a 160-mile wide stretch of seemingly barren ocean where white sharks that normally live off the North American West Coast travel to every year during the winter. This unusual migration has puzzled scientists for decades.