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Shark Race to the White House: Who Will Win?

One Florida university is putting a new spin on this year’s acrimonious presidential race with a race of its own: The Shark Race to the White House.

As headlines veer wildly from Trump’s latest scandal to Hillary’s emails, polls show that Trump and Clinton are still locked in a competitive race for the White House. Clinton remains in the lead for now — at least on land. In the ocean, it’s a different story. The tongue-in-cheek NSU Shark Race to the White House, ending tonight, hopes to predict election results.

Shark Race to the White House

Researchers from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in Florida have launched this presidential race, naming two of their tagged sharks in honor of the Republican and Democratic candidates. NSU tagged the shortfin makos, dubbed Trump Shark and Clinton Shark, off the coast of Rhode Island on September 26th, the same day that the real Clinton and Trump faced off in the first presidential debate. NSU will monitor the sharks until midnight on November 1st. The university will announce the shark that has swum the furthest as the winner, supposedly providing an omen for next week’s election.

Of course, no political contest would be complete without rallying slogans. According to a press release from NSU, Trump Shark’s motto is “Mako America Great Again.” Clinton Shark’s is “Swimming Stronger Together.” Today, with just a few hours left until the end of the race, Trump Shark leads. Data from October 30th shows that Trump Shark has traveled 511.81 miles, while Clinton Shark has swum 446.38. Fittingly, the two sharks have not been traveling the same path. While Trump Shark has been steaming out to sea, Clinton Shark has moved southward along the coast to New Jersey.

A scientific purpose

While the shark race may seem like a light-hearted aside to the drama of the real election, the project has a serious purpose. Trump Shark and Clinton Shark are among 52 sharks tagged as part of an ongoing NSU project, aiming to understand more about mako migrations. By tying in with the furor surrounding the real presidential election, the team hopes to raise awareness of their project and to reinforce the importance of mako research. According to NSU professor Mahmood Shivji, “we’ve learned some very interesting things about mako migration over the past couple of years…[but] there is clearly a lot more to discover about their behavior.”

In particular, the team hopes to learn more about why so many makos die prematurely off the United States East Coast. According to Shivji, nearly 30 percent of the sharks tagged and tracked as part of the project have died, most likely as a result of by-catch due to indiscriminate commercial-fishing methods. Shortfin makos reproduce slowly, and their numbers will not likely be able to cope with such large-scale losses. Already, the IUCN Red List classifies the species as vulnerable. For NSU President Dr. George Hanbury, “it’s not about politics, it’s about the research,” and the conservation efforts that the team’s data supports.

Fortunately, with only a few hours left on the clock it seems that both Trump Shark and Clinton Shark will make it to the end of their race for victory. To track their progress and find out which presidential candidate the oceans favor, visit NSU’s live shark tracker here.