Great White Shark Caught Napping

Researchers have recorded ground-breaking footage of a great white shark in a sleep-like state

In a video that proves that everyone — including the king of marine predators — needs their beauty sleep, researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and Pelagios Kakunjá have caught footage for the first time ever of a great white shark in state that is best described as sleep, or at least a sleep-like state.

Caught on Camera

Sharks have fascinated and (largely unduly) terrified humans for quite a long time. Movies come out every few years featuring sharks, often great whites. Every year the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” whips up a frenzy of shark-related coverage, some educational, some sensational. Despite all the attention we give to these apex predators, however, we actually know very little about their personal habits. One of the least understood facets of their lives are their nighttime activities, including sleep.

However, on a recent expedition to Guadalupe Island, near Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, scientists came upon a great white shark near the sandy bottom in shallow waters. Here, it was hovering in what they described as a catatonic, sleep-like state, with its mouth fully open. There was a current of almost two miles per hour in the area. This helped the shark keep water flowing over its gills at all times. This is necessary, as many shark species are unable to draw oxygen from the water if the flow stops. This has led to the image of the always-moving shark, which will drown if it stops moving. One way around that, as evidenced here and elsewhere, is for a shark to swim against currents. This allows the water to flow over its gills with minimal effort.

This new sighting adds to our knowledge of great whites, and is another piece of the puzzle when it comes to understanding these amazing animals and their habits.