For great white sharks, who must swim to keep oxygen flowing over their gills, every meal is taken "to go". Just ask this 11-foot (3.35m) beauty, who was spotted enjoying a grey seal meal recently off America's Atlantic coast. 


The large female, identified as WS-1602, was filmed by Dr Greg Skomal and his colleagues at the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy (AWSC). Thanks to shows like "Air Jaws", we've become accustomed to seeing shark-vs-seal battles off the African coast, but these events are seldom caught on camera in the US. "It's rare to observe predations in the Northwest Atlantic," explains AWSC. 

Just why 1602 is saving the (literal) tail-end of her meal remains a mystery. It's possible that the female has simply had enough – and we've learned from past sightings that great whites can certainly eat too much.

Back in 2014, predator behaviour specialist Michelle Jewell and the team at Dyer Island Conservation Trust (DICT) opened up a 570-kilogram (1,118 lb) great white and found something astonishing. Inside the large shark's stomach was an amorphous ball of fluff that turned out to be six Cape fur seals – all at the same stage of digestion (meaning that the animals were all eaten at around the same time)!

It's likely that the shark's massive feast proved too ambitious, causing the animal to strand. "We know that when white sharks gorge themselves on whale, they can barely swim," Jewell told us. "We reckon that if this shark had eaten too much and was lethargic, the strong swells in the area could have easily pushed it up the beach."

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DICT predator behaviour specialist Michelle Wcisel with six Cape fur seals removed from the stomach of the great white shark. Image: Blair Ranford, Dyer Island Conservation Trust/used with permission

Over time, we've uncovered a great deal about the lives of great white sharks, but much remains shrouded in mystery. We don't know where these predators mate, and we don’t have precise estimates of their global numbers. That's something the AWSC is trying to change. 

"Without a strong sense of how many white sharks exist in this area or how many are being killed, the time to act is now," urges Skomal, whose team is conducing a five-year population study. 

Using a combination of on-water and aerial surveillance, AWSC is unravelling how these animals interact with their environment, and of course, their prey. Just this week, they spotted an even bigger shark mid-chase with a grey seal near Nauset Inlet in Massachusetts. This time, however, the seal got away. 

Image: Wayne Davis, Atlantic White Shark Conservancy/Facebook
Image: Wayne Davis, Atlantic White Shark Conservancy/Facebook
Image: Wayne Davis, Atlantic White Shark Conservancy/Facebook
Image: Wayne Davis, Atlantic White Shark Conservancy/Facebook

Great white sharks may have a reputation as the ocean's top killing machines, but you might be surprised to know that in much of their range, only around 50 percent of hunts end in success. 

In fact, it's very common to find scars and scratches on the snouts of great whites – the animals they hunt don't just roll over to be eaten. Australian fur seals, for example, can reach a whopping 790 pounds (360kg), and boast sharp teeth and claws for defence. Landing a meal means the shark often takes a hit or two. 

To deal with these counter-attacks, white sharks have evolved an array of amazing adaptations to protect their vital organs. Interested? We've got you covered:

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Top header image: David Remse, Flickr