Blog post by Caitlin Smith and Leah Biery

Duunnn dunnn... duuuunnnn duun... duuunnnnnnnn dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dunnnnnnnnnnn dunnnn…. Betsy!

If you’re a local, you’ve probably heard the news - a great white shark named Betsy “pinged” about 70 miles off the coast of Sanibel last Friday – around 10 PM on the night of April 25th!

Betsy is a 12’7” 1400 pound immature female white shark. She was originally tagged off of Cape Cod in August of 2013. Since being tagged almost a year ago, she has traveled out into the Atlantic and then moved down the coast and around the bend of Florida. Betsy has traveled over 3492 miles altogether in a year. White sharks can swim up to 35 mph, but normally cruise at much slower rates. Betsy is the first tagged white shark to be tracked in the Gulf. 

Betsy is a 12’7” 1400 pound immature female white shark. She was originally tagged off of Cape Cod in August of 2013. Since being tagged almost a year ago, she has traveled out into the Atlantic and then moved down the coast and around the bend of Florida. Betsy has traveled over 3492 miles altogether in a year. White sharks can swim up to 35 mph, but normally cruise at much slower rates. Betsy is the first tagged white shark to be tracked in the Gulf. 

As far as scientists know, great whites only occasionally visit the Gulf of Mexico, usually preferring cold waters inhabited by large marine mammals. So the ping was an exciting story in itself, but things get even more curious. The next day, a group of divers spotted and captured video of a great white about 80 miles offshore from Sanibel. But it wasn’t the same shark! The great white spotted by divers did not have a tag, which means there were two sharks roaming the same general area over the weekend.

Watch for a Sanibel Sea School guest appearance!

So the big question: are great whites more common in the Gulf than we thought? Maybe – it could be that they’ve always been here and we just didn’t see them often. The development of new tracking technology and a growing number of divers with cameras could lead to more verifiable sightings.

An alternative hypothesis is that the oceans aren’t as healthy as they used to be, so the sharks are expanding their range to search for food. It’s hard to say, but the events of the weekend pose many interesting questions about these powerful and fascinating creatures for scientists to examine in the near future.

We’ll be sure to keep our readers posted on the latest research – and please let us know if you hear anything interesting related to this topic!

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