A giant great white shark being tracked by researchers has now entered the Gulf of Mexico, location data from the animal’s tag shows.
The shark’s tracker pinged just west of the Dry Tortugas islands—located at the end of the Florida Keys—on Monday, the Associated Press reported .
The female shark, known as Unama’ki, weighs more than 2,000 pounds and measures 15 feet, 5 inches in length.
It has arrived in the warm waters of the Gulf after a journey of roughly 2,000 miles along the entire length of the U.S. east coast, beginning off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada.
Non-profit OCEARCH tagged the shark with a monitoring device in September this year after catching the animal and hauling her up onto a research vessel. This tag enables scientists to monitor Unama’ki’s movements, casting a light on its behavior.
OCEARCH says that Unama’ki is the second largest shark that it has ever caught and tagged in the northwest Atlantic. Unama’ki,meaning “land of the fog,” is the name that the Mi’kmaq First Nations people give to the Cape Breton region where the shark was first caught.
OCEARCH has tracked Unama’ki’s movements all along the eastern seaboard, and researchers say this could provide fascinating new insights into the lives of these sharks.
“As a big mature female, Unama’ki has the potential to lead us to the site where she gives birth and exposes a new white shark nursery,” the non-profit said.
OCEARCH has been tracking sharks off the North American coast for years, revealing how great whites often migrate thousands of miles from more northerly latitudes to the warmer waters off the coast of Georgia, the Carolinas and Florida during the winter.
Currently, the non-profit’s monitoring data shows that all of the great whites that it tagged in Nova Scotia this year are now spread out across a huge region.
“They’ve got a good chunk of the east coast covered right now,” the non-profit said.
In mid-October, one of the white shark’s OCEARCH is tracking pinged in the Gulf of Mexico. This marked the first time that the non-profit had tracked a great white into the Gulf in October, providing a new understanding of how early these animals arrive in these warm waters.
While there is still much to be learned about great whites in the northwest Atlantic, OCEARCH researchers have now come up with a hypothesis that there are two main sub-populations: one that congregates in the area of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in the late summer and early fall, and another that aggregates in Canada.