It seems even the great white shark can be picky about his cut of meat. On Sept. 11, a group of researchers from the Save Our Seas Shark Centre and Shark Spotting Programme joined the South African navy in towing a 36-foot Bryde’s whale carcass to Seal Island—an area well known for the presence of sharks—to let the sharks handle the cleanup and to observe their feeding habits in the process. What they found was surprisingly civilized. A swarm of roughly 30 sharks appeared and began to feed alongside each other, up to four at a time, without fighting over their food. The unaggressive display also showed the sharks employing “test bites” before tearing strips off to eat.
“Great whites prefer energy-rich foods, so they were probably going for the fat layers of blubber,” says Stephen Turnbull, executive director of the Canadian Shark Conservation Society in New Brunswick. But Turnbull explains that the great whites, like other species, have a hierarchy wherein size rules—which accounts for the systematic nature of the feeding.