Although great white sharks are among the top predators in the ocean, they are still considered a vulnerable species. Now, for the first time, scientists have discovered what is said to be a prehistoric great white shark’s “nursery” — which could have an impact on the conservation of today’s great white sharks. Led by paleontologist Jaime A. Villafa?a of the University of Vienna, an international team of scientists recently conducted a statistical analysis of the teeth of great white sharks found between 2 million and 5 million years ago at several sites along the Pacific coasts of Chile and Peru. Since the animal’s cartilage bones are not fossilized, these teeth are the entire remains of prehistoric sharks.
Depending on the size of the teeth, scientists were able to estimate the size of great white sharks and thus their age. A site in northern Chile — an area known as Coquimbo — has the highest proportion of juvenile sharks found, and the adult shark is completely absent. The discovery is a strong indication that the site is a “nursery” where adult sharks protect young sharks from predators until they grow up to be self-reliance. Although there are still such “nursery rooms”, this is said to be the first time a prehistoric nursery has been found.
Of particular note is that when the site was used as a “nursery”, the climate in the area was much warmer. According to the researchers, this suggests that as global warming causes ocean temperatures to rise today, great white sharks may respond by moving in a corresponding way.
“If we understand the past, we will be able to take appropriate protective measures today to ensure the survival of this top predator, which is critical to the ecosystem,” said J?rgen Kriwet, a paleontologist at the University of Vienna. “Our results suggest that rising sea surface temperatures will change the distribution of temperate fish and change these important breeding grounds in the future. “
Scientists from Costa Rica, Chile, the United Kingdom and the United States also took part in the study. A paper on the study was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.