Researchers spotted an enormous 11-foot, 1,200-pound great white shark off the coast of Florida just in time for spring break. As if the shark’s presence alone wasn’t enough to send shivers down your spine, they documented a grisly bite wound on the predator’s side, suspected to have been inflicted by an even bigger beast.
Affectionately dubbed “Maple” after the national emblem of Canada, the young female’s tracker pinged about 40 miles southeast of St. George Island, Florida, on Monday.
According to OCEARCH, a nonprofit research group dedicated to the study of great whites, Maple migrates to the warm waters of the Sunshine State each winter to escape the frigid cold of the Great White North.
Each great white shark under their watch has its own unique characteristics. Maple, however, is especially recognizable due to a horrific bite wound across the left side of her body.
As an apex predator, there isn’t much under the sea that could or would attack a great white. Killer whales are their only true threat – they’re known to bring down massive sharks when the mood strikes. But not this time. Instead, researchers believe the wound was inflicted by an even larger great white shark.
Maple Isn’t Even Close to Being the Largest Great White Shark in the Sea
An 11-foot shark is plenty large enough to be classified as colossal. Maple, however, isn’t even close to the largest of her species. Female great white sharks regularly grow up to 16 feet long, while males reach 13 feet. The biggest on record is a 20-foot, 4,500-pound female named Deep Blue who still roams the ocean today.
Large great white sharks will sometimes attack smaller individuals. Their goal isn’t to kill but to inflict enough damage to prove their dominance. “It is not uncommon for sharks to show their dominance over a smaller animal of their species by delivering a significant but non-fatal bite,” OCEARCH explained.
The organization tagged Maple two years ago, when they first spotted the gruesome wound. It’s healed nicely since then, but she will always sport the battle scar.
Maple is certainly a fearsome sight to behold. She’s far from the only great white shark roaming the waters of Florida, though. And while sharks aren’t nearly as bloodthirsty as Hollywood would have us believe, it’s always important to be shark-wise while enjoying the beach.
“It’s very important for people who visit Florida waters to be aware of their surroundings, understand the relative risks, and be educated on various shark issues such as behavior, biology, and fisheries,” said Brent Winner, a scientist for the Florida Wildlife Commission.
The FWC clarified, however, that shark attacks are extremely rare. Fisheries kill around 100 million sharks annually, while less than 10 humans lose their lives in shark attacks. You’re about 30 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to suffer a shark bite.