How Great White Sharks Accidentally Wandered Into the Mediterranean

By Andrew Moseman | November 17, 2010 11:00 am

great-white-shark-webFrom Ed Yong:

When Chrysoula Gubili from the University of Aberdeen compared the DNA of white sharks from around the world, she found a big surprise. The great white is the most genetically diverse shark studied so far but the Mediterranean fish are only distantly related to nearby populations in the North-West Atlantic, or even in South Africa. Their closest kin actually live half a world away in the Indo-Pacific waters of Australia and New Zealand….

Gubili thinks that the European population was set up by a single founding female who got lost. Female great whites undergo long migrations of thousands of kilometres, but they tend to return to the place where they were born. However, it’s possible that some individuals lose the bearings on these monster treks. These navigational problems rarely amount to anything. But if the wayward female is pregnant, she might end up setting up an entirely new splinter group in a far-off corner of the world.

Read the rest of this post at DISCOVER blog Not Exactly Rocket Science.

Related Content:
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Prehistoric Great White Shark Had Strongest Bite in History
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80beats: The Secret Lives and Loves of Great White Sharks

Image: flickr / hermanusbackpackers

  • scott

    I spent the summer and fall near Nice, France, swimming everyday way out, in deep water in the med thinking there were no big sharks! However…I think the jellyfish prove to be more a threat as their populations are becoming such a problem and causing many stings, beach closures and warning signs to crop up. One beach, in Eze, became “unswimmable”. I was going everyday and more and more jellyfish were in the waters and it got to the point where it was not worth getting into the water as you could see them everywhere. The last week in August the water had none, by the end of September you could see them floating in the water by the dozens, same pattern happened in Antibes. Monaco invests in large nets that prevent them from stinging swimmers at their man made beach coves (you can see them on google earth). This purple jelly (link below) is the one that filled the waters. This same species also prevented swimming in July, 2008 while I was visiting Menorca and Ibiza. You could not get into the water to swim.

  • s

    I would think you would need more than just 1 pregnant female. Otherwise in-breeding and such would have caused severe handicaps…including a good chance of sterility.

    Admittedly, I’m no geneticist, but it seems a logical argument.

    Maybe those that know better can add to this??

  • AL

    That’s a good question, s, and I’d like to know the answer too. If I had to guess, it’s possible these great whites were breeding with the nearby population, but in limited numbers so that they still retain a closer relationship with the distant population rather than the nearby one. Alternatively, they’re just inbred but “won the lottery” so to speak, in that they didn’t end up with severe defects. Inbreeding raises the risk of defects, but doesn’t guarantee it.

  • GJ

    “Mediterranean fish”, What?
    Sharks are not Fish, very sloppy Discover.

  • Brian Too

    Sure it was an accident. Like when I was flying to Irkutsk, and “accidentally” got on the plane to Greece instead. I tried to get it fixed but, you know, I was knocking back cold ones on the beach and just never got the time to follow up with the airline…


  • Naveed

    GJ, sharks are fish…..dolphins and whales aren’t fish…..

  • Mal

    Gj, sharks aren’t fish..? What are they then, reptiles.?! Of course they’re fish. You are thinking of whales & dolphins. They my friend are mammals not fish but sharks are fish.


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