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The Inertia

This would be an unnerving find as a scientist: capturing a large, great white shark measuring at around 13 feet, only to find it had a massive bite wound on its head, signaling that a much larger animal got to it first. Researchers with OCEARCH, a non-profit that collects data on apex predators, recently came across that exact scenario off the coast of Nova Scotia. And now they’re working to find out what it is.

“It was clear that something had just grabbed his entire head,” Chris Fischer, founding chairman of OCEARCH told the media.

The wounded fish that OCEARCH tagged and released measured exactly 12 feet, nine inches and actually had two bites. One in the jaw area that had healed and scarred and another that was fresh across the top of its head. Fischer added that anything that laid that bite mark had to be significantly bigger than 13 feet. “Anything that can grab an animal like that by the head is pretty impressive,” he said.

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OCEARCH said it has tagged more than 400 animals in the past 12 years and found that the Eastern Seaboard is a superhighway for great whites traveling between Nova Scotia and the Gulf of Mexico. The scientists have ventured a couple of guesses as to how the shark got the scars. The first is that it was competing against other males to win the fin of a certain female shark, or it tried mating with a much larger female that left him with the sizeable bite. Scientists also conceded that this shark may have gotten in the way of another animal going after a seal but are actually hopeful it’s one of the former scenarios as they’ve been vigorously searching for the mating grounds of these apex predators and this bite may be an important clue as to where those mating grounds are.

In a rather disturbing side note, the crew of OCEARCH did capture a 17-foot behemoth earlier this month that they were unable to tag before it escaped. Regardless, the find had these scientists fairly excited.

You can see the entire process of catching and tagging the sharks below.

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