The news: Paging Jacques Cousteau — we need help solving a spooky underwater mystery.
Premiering Wednesday on the Smithsonian Channel, a new documentary, Hunt for the Super Predator, investigates the disappearance of a great white shark from Australian waters. Eleven years ago, researchers had tagged the shark as a part of a large-scale study, but were surprised to see the tag wash up ashore four months later. The data recorded on the tracking tag was stranger still: The device had plunged to depths of 1,900 feet, while temperature shot up to 78 degrees Fahrenheit for eight days. Researchers believe this data revealed that the shark was ingested by a larger animal.
"When I was first told about the data that came back from the tag that was on the shark, I was absolutely blown away," filmmaker Dave Riggs said in the documentary. "The question that not only came to my mind but everyone’s mind who was involved was, 'What did that?' It was obviously eaten. What's gonna eat a shark that big? What could kill a [9-foot] great white?"
The likely candidate: Scientists and bloggers alike have speculated on what could possibly bring a great white shark down. Guesses have ranged from credible (giant squid, killer whale) to fanciful (Kraken, Godzilla, kaiju). But it sounds like researchers have zeroed in on the most likely candidate for now
Yes, it really exists and it's not some Sharknado-style ungodly horror that the Syfy channel cooked up. These gigantic creatures are around 16 feet long and can weigh over 2 tons. Their internal temperature matches what was recorded on the deceased shark's tag, lending credence to the theory that the smaller shark was cannibalized.
Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean the colossal cannibal swallowed the "smaller" great white in one gulp. It's more likely that the bigger shark took a big mouthful of the tagged area and passed the device through its system. Still, any time a great white shark is threatened warrants another look at our place in nature — as the documentary points out, "big sharks eat little sharks." We wouldn't want to stick around to see what happens when a colossal cannibal great white shark gets hungry.