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Newborn great white shark spotted for the first time ever

In a remarkable breakthrough for marine biology, a live newborn great white shark has been observed in the wild for the first time. 

This historic sighting was made along California’s central coast by wildlife filmmaker Carlos Gauna and Phillip Sternes, a doctoral student at UC Riverside.

Extraordinary sighting

On July 9, 2023, Gauna and Sternes were scanning the ocean near Santa Barbara when their drone camera captured an extraordinary sight – a pure white, roughly 5-foot-long shark pup. 

“We enlarged the images, put them in slow motion, and realized the white layer was being shed from the body as it was swimming,” said Sternes. “I believe it was a newborn white shark shedding its embryonic layer.”

A longstanding mystery 

Gauna, also known as The Malibu Artist, has spent thousands of hours filming sharks around the world.

In a paper published in the journal Environmental Biology of Fishes, the team emphasizes the significance of witnessing a newborn great white shark. This observation could help solve the longstanding mystery of great white birthing habits.

“Where white sharks give birth is one of the holy grails of shark science. No one has ever been able to pinpoint where they are born, nor has anyone seen a newborn baby shark alive,” noted Gauna. “There have been dead white sharks found inside deceased pregnant mothers. But nothing like this.”

Possible skin condition

The study authors acknowledge that the white film being shed by the shark could have been related to a skin condition. But they do not believe this to be the case. 

“If that is what we saw, then that too is monumental because no such condition has ever been reported for these sharks,” said Gauna.

Was it a newborn great white? 

There are several factors that suggest the animal was a newborn great white shark. 

Intrauterine milk

Great white females give birth to live pups. The mothers provide nourishment to the embryos with a type of “milk” secreted in the uterus. “I believe what we saw was the baby shedding the intrauterine milk,” said Sternes. 

Pregnant sharks

In addition, Gauna had previously observed the presence of large great whites that were likely pregnant in this same location. 

“I filmed three very large sharks that appeared pregnant at this specific location in the days prior. On this day, one of them dove down, and not long afterwards, this fully white shark appears,” said Gauna. “It’s not a stretch to deduce where the baby came from.”


The size and shape of the shark (thin, short and rounded) also indicated that it was a newborn. “In my opinion, this one was likely hours, maybe one day old at most,” said Sternes. 

Birthing location

Furthermore, this particular location off the coast of central California near Santa Barbara has long been proposed as a birthing location for great whites. 

“There are a lot of hypothetical areas, but despite intense interest in these sharks, no one’s seen a birth or a newborn pup in the wild,” said Sternes. “This may well be the first evidence we have of a pup in the wild, making this a definitive birthing location.”

Study significance 

The sighting is not just a scientific marvel but also a crucial development in great white shark conservation.

Listed as an endangered species, the confirmation of this location as a breeding ground for great whites could prompt legislative action to protect these waters, thereby supporting the thriving of this species. 

“Further research is needed to confirm these waters are indeed a great white breeding ground. But if it does, we would want lawmakers to step in and protect these waters to help white sharks keep thriving,” said Sternes. 

Click here to see the photo of the newborn great white shark.


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