by Federico Betti – Reef Check Italia Associate Program Manager
In the past few days, the media reported the news of the finding, in the Australian waters of Queensland, of a three meters long white shark Carcharodon carcharias, dead because of the bites of another white shark.
Cannibalism is not unusual in this species, and what caused a sensation is the fact that the size of the bites indicates that the assailant had to be a more than 6 meters long shark, immediately
called “the super shark”.
In reality, it is assessed that white sharks may exceed a length of 7 meters, as it is shown, between the others, by the specimens of 7 meters and 14 centimeters long fished in 1987 close to Malta; otherwise, description of much bigger animals (eight, ten, twelve meters) are not considered reliable.
So, the specimens responsible of the attack doesn’t represent an anomaly for the species, but it is important to say that the white sharks, after
reaching a length of 4 meters, begin to increase very slowly, and to use the energy obtained by feeding in increasing in weight and tonnage, more than in length.It means that big white sharks tend to get stronger and more ponderous instead of increase their length; so, animals longer than 4 meters are extremely rare,
because just few specimens can survive for a time long enough to reach longer sizes.
That’s why the record of the presence of a more than six meters long white shark should be a good news for lovers of nature and animals: in spite of the thousands mortality factors (of human origin) that are leading to the loss of this species, there are still specimens able to resist for many years to human injuries.