Tag Archives: great white sharks

Great whites use stored liver oil to power through ocean “road trips”

18 Jul
This is a juvenile great white shark at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. (Credit: Randy Wilder)

This is a juvenile great white shark at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. (Credit: Randy Wilder)

Bears, sea lions and whales rely on their external blubber to power through hibernations and migrations.

For them, a little extra flab is crucial to their survival.

Would a Great white shark be so intimidating if it was a little overweight? Probably not. It may instead get the stigma of a cop eating a doughnut with his mouth open.

But, like other large megafauna, Great whites migrate thousands of miles across the Pacific ocean  without eating much, and their lean physiques have puzzled scientists.

Where is the fat to fuel the trip stored?

A new study by scientists at Stanford University and the Monterey Bay Aquarium found that instead of storing fat externally, Great white’s instead store the fat in their liver, discounting the previous notion that the sharks would periodically dine throughout the voyage.

“We have a glimpse now of how white sharks come in from nutrient-poor areas offshore, feed where elephant seal populations are expanding – much like going to an Outback Steakhouse – and store the energy in their livers so they can move offshore again,” researcher Barbara Block, a professor of marine sciences and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, said. “It helps us understand how important their near-shore habitats are as fueling stations for their entire life history.”

Continue reading