Saturday, January 9, 2016

New Jersey's Fintastic Visitors Episode I: The Great White Shark

Hello everyone and welcome to what I am going to be calling New Jersey's Fintastic Visitors! This series of blogs is going to be mostly educational information about the various species of sharks that come to New Jersey throughout the year. That being said, these blogs at certain points will pertain mostly to people living in New Jersey, but there's plenty of non New Jersey things in them as well. So enjoy!

The Great White Shark ( Carcharodon carcharias) is a large species of shark that can be found off the coast of New Jersey several times throughout the year. Just mere days ago a large great white was tracked off the coast of New Jersey. This shark, named "Mary Lee" has made several stops off New Jersey for quite some time now. Since she started being tracked back in 2012 she has covered over 30,000 miles.

The great white can grow to lengths of 21 feet and weigh over 7,000lbs. It is thought that these sharks mature at around 15 years of age and new studies suggest these animals can live up to 70 years. The great white shark can be found throughout most of the world's oceans with the exception of the Southern and Arctic Oceans. They tend to inhabit waters between 54 and 75 degrees and eat a wide variety of animals including seals, fish, birds, and other marine mammals. They have just one predator, the orca which has been seen occasionally killing and eating these sharks. Larger members of this species have also been known to prey on smaller members.

This species of shark is easily the most famous species largely due to the horrific rep it has as a result of the movie "Jaws". Contrary to the behavior of the shark in the move, the great white is not known to prey upon humans. Most incidents where a great white has bitten a human has been chalked up to a case of mistaken identity where the shark mistakes a human for it's natural prey. This explains why the sharks usually vanish after biting a person. In New Jersey, this shark is thought to have potentially been responsible for the 1916 shark attacks that would inspire the movie "Jaws". However the great white's role is highly debated as some of the attacks occurred inland where great whites typically do not venture.

The great white shark is one of New Jersey's greatest and easily most misunderstood visitors! This species of shark visits the state throughout the year and the vast majority of people are totally unaware. While these animals are aggressive they are simply not the monsters that hollywood has made them out to be. The great white shark is an incredibly important part of the world's oceans and fortunately these animals are becoming more protected. This should allow the dwindling populations to rebound and perhaps someday we will see them be taken off the IUCN Red List's list of "Vulnerable" species.

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