A great white shark that briefly stranded in the Sea of Cortez last month has been spotted again – and it's alive and well. Local residents were concerned after the 14-foot animal turned up with a gnarly propeller gash, but the injury should heal up on its own. 

When Baja resident Dale Pearson first encountered the large predator, he mistook it for a stranding hammerhead or pilot whale. 

Before we get to the shark's nasty gash, it's time for a protip: if you happen upon a struggling white shark, do not paddle out for a closer look. The fish are certainly not the bloodthirsty maneaters of Jaws fame, but animals in distress can act erratically. Approaching them is not only extremely dangerous, but it might also be considered wildlife harassment in some parts of the world.

It's likely that this animal swam into the shallows to feed on coastal stingrays – and indeed, both Pearson and a friend were stung during the encounter. "I got it in my left heel just when I stopped filming," he wrote on Facebook.

Some reports have suggested that the white shark was trailing stingrays because it was too injured to hunt larger prey, but that's not necessarily the case. Juvenile great whites are known to sample a variety of fish fare before graduating to more formidable prey like seals and other marine mammals. It's a misconception, however, that their tastes change completely as they age. Large stingrays are a solid dietary supplement for white sharks moving through this area.  

The shark's propeller wound looks concerning – and it's a harrowing reminder of how human activities affect marine life – but white shark skin is built to withstand bites and scratches during hunts, mating and scraps for dominance. Scientists in South Africa still encounter an individual known as "Prop", who was nearly cut in half by a propeller in 2008: 

Prop's wound before and after healing. Image: Towner et al./Global Perspective on the Biology and Life History of the White Shark

We've also seen similar Logan-style healing powers in "Chopper," whose shredded gills took less than a year to mend:

White shark bite-Nicola-Stelluto-2015-9-15
Chopper with a fresh wound. Less than a year later, the injury had healed up. Image: Nicola Stelluto, Dyer Island Conservation Trust/Marine Dynamics 

Predator-prey ecologist Michelle Jewell, who has done extensive research on great whites, explains that the injury seen in the Sea of Cortez shark wouldn't prevent it from hunting unless it dinged the animal's vertebrae. And judging by the ferocity with which this particular shark flailed its way to freedom, we can probably rule out significant trauma. 

That great white's gumption has led to some confusion online about whether this shark was in trouble in the first place. Some commenters suggested the animal was merely "resting on the sandbars" in Pearson's clip, but getting stuck like this – even temporarily –  is precarious for white sharks. Their cartilaginous skeletons are not designed to bear the full weight of their bodies, and they need to swim in order to get the oxygen they need.

In any case, it looks like this shark lived to swim another day. According to Pearson, it was seen in seemingly good condition after he filmed the encounter. "It would swim out and then come back shallow," he said. "It eventually swam back out to deeper water but stayed in the area. It was last seen on May 29th."



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