Great Whites Mature Much Later Than We Thought

Written by on February 18, 2015 in Marine Life, Sharks
Great white shark. Photo credit: Ken Bondy via photopin cc.

Great white shark. Photo credit: Ken Bondy via photopin cc.

A new study reveals that great white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) grow more slowly and mature much later than we thought.

Currently, females are estimated to reach sexual maturity between seven and 13 years and males between four and ten years. The new research, however, states that females don’t actually reach maturity until age 33 and males around age 26.

“Using the longevity data obtained from our first study, we are now able to describe not just how long white sharks live, but also the growth rate for this species, which is remarkably slower than anybody thought,” Lisa Natanson, a fisheries biologist and shark researcher at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center and lead author of the study explained in a news release.

Band pairs, marked by black dots on this white shark vertebra. Image credit: Lisa Natanson, NEFSC/NOAA.

Band pairs, marked by black dots on this white shark vertebra. Image credit: Lisa Natanson, NEFSC/NOAA.

To determine white shark growth rates, researchers combined recently published information on white shark longevity (showing that white sharks can live 70 years and longer) with information obtained from band pair counting. Band pairs are opaque and translucent deposits that alternate as the shark grows. They can been seen in shark vertebrae and are counted like tree rings, which can help researches determine a shark’s age.

Fish that mature later in life and have longer lifespans are more sensitive to fishing pressures because it takes longer for those species to reproduce and rebuild populations.

Knowing that white sharks don’t mature until their twenties or thirties and can live longer than 70 years means that they need much more time to rebuild their population than previously thought, meaning that these new findings could have an impact on current and future conservation efforts.

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Copyright © 2015 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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