Although we are well past the infamous “Shark Week” that premiers every year on television, there is always plenty of footage out there that reminds us just how impressive these creatures are. We generally recognize that humans are out of out depth (literally) when we are in the ocean. The domain of the shark is one that remains relatively uncontested!
Still, despite the reign of the sharp-toothed predators that live below the waves, the occasional video surfaces that shows that the ocean’s apex predators still do make mistakes! As this video shows, even the infamous great white shark will miss the mark and let prey escape.
Cape Cod was historically a home for great white sharks until they were nearly wiped out in the region by humans. In recent years, however, their numbers have stabilized, and they seem to have begun the process of localized recovery in the region. As their numbers recover, more and more sightings of great whites in New England waters occur. While it’s assuredly a scary notion to consider that the great white is back on the prowl, it’s a healthy thing for the ecosystem and an overall successful achievement for humans and sharks alike.
As “healthy” as the achievement may be, it is pretty bad news if you are a seal living in New England! As a video filmed a few years ago shows, the calm surface of the water can be deceiving. In the video, we see the waters of Cape Cod with the sandy shoreline in the background. Suddenly, the waters erupt as two creatures fly into the air.
Happening in the blink of an eye, we see a seal shoot into the air, fully clearing the water as it runs for its life. Its pursuer? A great white shark looking for its next meal. As the seal leaps into the air, the shark follows suit and nearly grabs the seal’s body, missing it by inches.
The video, filmed by Dr. Greg Skomal of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, shows just fast a shark attack can happen and how little you can do to prepare for it. Great white sharks are the largest predatory shark in the world (the filter-feeding whale shark is the largest). With so much body mass to fuel, great whites are almost exclusively found near large populations of seals and seal lions, preferably in cooler water.
Cape Cod makes the perfect home for these fish as it has the cooler water they prefer and the seals they love! When a great white shark hunts, estimates place their success at around 80%, an incredibly high number when it’s compared to other apex predators, specifically terrestrial ones.
Still, despite the generally high success rate of hunts, it seems like this seal was having a lucky day. Although we can’t see the rest of what happened, the title seems to tell us all we need to know. Great white: 0, seal: 1. While 20% isn’t great odds, it’s probably the best you are going to get when dealing with the ocean’s largest predatory sharks!
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