This amazing video was captured by diver Agnes Yip-Fa during a cage dive in the waters of South Australia's Neptune Islands back in 2013. It might look like the larger male in the video has developed a taste for his own kind (and that does happen), but what you're seeing is actually a fantastic display of dominance. It's the shark equivalent of "Back off, I was here first."
Contrary to several media reports, this was a baited dive, where pieces of tuna or some other fish are thrown into the water to attract sharks and other predators. According to Yip-Fa, the smaller shark had been bothering the others for most of the day. "He was being pesky," she told marine conservation group Friends for Sharks. "He didn't give way to the larger sharks. At the time the footage was shot, the two were going for the bait at the same time, and the smaller one received a warning bite."
If you look closely, you can see a small puncture wound under the small shark's mouth, but we suspect both behemoths made off just fine in the end. White shark skin is built to withstand bites and scratches from tough prey like sea lions, and they regularly bite each other's gills during mating.
"We've documented their amazing healing capability with a white shark named 'Prop' who was nearly cut in half by a propeller," says predator-prey ecologist Michelle Jewell, who has done extensive work on great whites. "This shark survived and is still spotted in South Africa today."
You can see those healing capabilities at work in these photos of another shark, "Chopper", which were taken 11 months apart.
Yip-Fa's video also illustrates that sharks are intelligent creatures with individual behaviour and character patterns: some are bolder than others. "The very basic behaviour of 'stay away from anyone bigger than me' is just as advantageous to white sharks as it is to marching band members," says Jewell. "We've seen sharks nip at each other before, so I would not be surprised that this would be common anywhere where lots of white sharks are in a tight group (i.e. at a cage diving site or at a dead whale)."
Top header image: Brook Ward/Flickr