Most people across the globe don’t stop to wonder about the feeding habits of great white sharks but a team led by Associate Professor Jayson Semmens (Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies) is researching the predator’s diet in an effort to understand how sharks interact with their ecosystems.

What they found contradicted popular belief, which had built around the only previous study on the topic, conducted 30 years earlier.

The initial study believed that a 30-kilogram meal was enough to sustain a 1-tonne shark for around one and a half months, but the team found that a meal this size would actually only sustain the predator for 12 to 15 days.

“The great whites’ natural range extends across the globe, making it incredibly difficult to study, but also incredibly important as they are at the top of the oceanic food chain,” Assoc Prof Semmens said

“Our study utilised metabolic rates derived from swimming speed estimates to calculate their feeding requirements.”

Tricky to study, but of vital importance: The majestic great white shark.

The study also found that great whites appear to choose to be near seal colonies in the spring in order to dine on vulnerable prey in the form of recently weaned seal pups that don’t fully understand the dangers yet.

These seal pups make for slightly easier prey; nevertheless, the great whites expend more energy there patrolling for prey compared to their regular activities.

Great whites are integral in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem; ensuring that other middle-level predators don’t become overpopulated.

However, the size of the overall population and the trends in growth or decline of the species are unknown, highlighting the need for further study to ensure this apex predator does not fall victim to the effects of man.

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