Ever since the movie "Jaws" popularized great white sharks as predatory man-killers, people have had misconceptions about these animals. That is why researchers have been doing everything they can to learn as much about them before they are hunted to extinction.
Something in the ocean is eating great white sharks
Enya Kim from the Natural History department at auctioneers Bonhams & Butterfields stands inside one of the world's largest set of shark jaws comprised of about 180 fossil teeth from the prehistoric species, Carcharocles megalodon, which grew to the size of a school bus.
SLUG: WK-OCEAN HALL DATE: 9/18/08 CREDIT: BILL O'LEARY / TWP WASHINGTON, DC. Pictured, the fossilized jaw of a giant, prehistoric Megalodon shark.
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 2003: Reconstruction of Megalodon, (Carcharodon megalodon) extinct species of shark which lived between the Eocene and the Pliocene Period. Drawing.
A tooth of an extinct giant shark called 'Carcharodon megalodon' found by paleontologists during a project to recover fossils during the Panama Canal expansion, is displayed after a news conference in Panama City, Friday, April 26, 2013. A group of scientists and paleontologists have completed a project with the Panama Canal Authority to recover fossils of at least ten new species of animals that inhabited the earth millions of years ago.
A dead great white shark is seen in Mystic, Conn., Aug. 8, 1983. The shark, 16.5 feet long and weighing 3,300 lbs., was caught by two fishermen from Connecticut after a 10-hour battle 10 miles off the coast of Block Island, R.I. It is believed to be one of the largest great whites ever to be caught in the North Atlantic Ocean.
A schoolgirl reads a panel with information about an ancient whale fossil exibited at the National History Museum in Lima on July 01, 2010. The giant whale named Leviathan melvillei in honour of Herman Melville and his novel 'Moby Dick', live about 12 million years ago in the Miocene period of Peru. The prehistoric sperm whale gripped large prey with its interlocking teeth, inflicting deep wounds and tearing large pieces from the body of its victims, the researchers said.
Rodolfo Salas, one of the scientists that have discovered an ancient whale fossil, speaks next to the jaw of the fossil at the National History Museum in Lima on July 01, 2010. The giant whale named Leviathan melvillei in honour of Herman Melville and his novel 'Moby Dick', live about 12 million years ago in the Miocene period of Peru. The prehistoric sperm whale gripped large prey with its interlocking teeth, inflicting deep wounds and tearing large pieces from the body of its victims, the researchers said.
This photo released by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department shows the surfboard being ridden by 39-year-old surfer Francisco Javier Solorio Jr., who was fatally attacked by a shark Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. An expert has determined that Solorio was killed by a 15- to 16-foot great white shark, according to Ralph Collier of the Shark Research Committee. He was bitten in the upper torso in the waters off Surf Beach on Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County and died at the scene despite a friend's efforts to save him.
In an undated photo provided by the Oregon State Police, a 12-foot Great White Shark is displayed near Depoe Bay, Ore. A 20-foot recreational fishing boat brought the shark to Depoe Bay and it likely died Saturday after getting tangled in his crab pot lines.
Crew of a fishing boat displays the business end of a Great White shark at Montauk, N.Y., Aug. 16, 1986. The 2,602-pound shark was the second Great White caught in Montauk waters in the past nine days. Sitting on the shark is Tom Lizza, captain of the The Violator, who harpooned the shark, and Gail Gutterman, who shot it before putting on the tail rope.
A great white shark surfaces and snaps at a seal-shaped decoy. These decoys, coupled with chumming, decrease unintended feeding of sharks by attracting them to dive boats by scent, and limit the amount of bait needed.
GANSBAAI, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 08: A Great White Shark swims in Shark Alley near Dyer Island on July 8, 2010 in Gansbaai, South Africa.
A collection of whale bone fossils discovered during excavation of the reservoir in La Jolla, Calif., in Dec., 2000, are shown in this handout photo provided by the City of San Diego. The fossils were identified by paleontologists, in July 2001, as the remains of an extinct type of baleen whale that swam in a huge bay covering what is now Mount Soledad. Paleontologists, who are required by San Diego County to monitor sensitive construction sites, spotted the fossils and halted construction. They pulledout a partial skull, both ear bones, a lower limb bone and broken ribs from the soil. Shark teeth belonging to an ancestor of the Great White Shark also were found. (AP Photo/City of San Diego)
Visitors look at a brown-shark and a diver through the huge shatterproof window of the largest sea aquarium in Central Europe, the Tropicarium Ocenarium, in the Campona Shopping Centre, in Budapest on Saturday, May 20, 2000, a day after five tiger-sharks and two brown-sharks arrived in Hungary from Florida by plane. The 16 centimetres thick wall of the new shark aquarium was built in Japan, it has 1.5 million litre capacity. Tropicarium Ocenarium is to open to the public on May 26. (AP Photo/MTI Photo/Illyes Tibor)
Visitors look at a brown-shark through the huge shatterproof window of the largest sea aquarium of Central Europe, Tropicarium Ocenarium in Campona Shopping Centre in Budapest on Saturday May 20, 2000, a day after five tiger-sharks and two brown-sharks arrived in Hungary from Florida by plane. The 16 centimetres thick wall of the new shark aquarium was built in Japan, it has 1.5 million litre capacity, and will give home some rays as well as a great variety of sea fish. Tropicarium Ocenarium is to open to the public on May 26. (AP Photo/Tibor Illyes)
Prince Andrew the Duke and Sarah Duchess of York look at the display in the Shark Tank at Tounsvilles Greta Barrier Reef-Wonderland in Australia on Oct. 3, 1988. The huge tank holds several 2-3 meter Sharks and features a walk under dome. (AP Photo)
BACK TO SLIDE
Whether you're frightened of them or not, it's still unfortunate to learn that one less great white exists now.
Researchers were tagging great whites to study their movements. In the process, they tagged a nine-foot female, who left the area safely. Four months later, her tag was found on a beach near where she was first caught -- and the data tells a very interesting story.
"It showed this profile going down the shelf to 580 meters, then a huge temperature change ... another living animal," said a Smithsonian researcher.
Yes, it appears that the nine-foot great white was eaten. The big question? What ate her? Whatever it was, it had to be big enough to swallow almost 10 feet of apex predator, and quick enough to drag it almost 2,000 feet in a few seconds.
So, what is it? A giant squid? Godzilla? A Megalodon? Well, actually, that last one is not too far off from the real theory.
The Megalodon was a prehistoric shark, much like a great white ... but 60-feet long. Researchers don't actually believe it was a Megalodon, but they do think it was a giant shark: a great white about 16-feet long and weighing over 4,000 lbs. This deduction came from studying the migratory patterns of other great whites that happened to be in the same area as the missing shark with matching body temperatures.
Still, that is just a hypothesis for now. They still don't know for sure what ate this great white.
Interested in this wild story? You can watch the full documentary, called the "Hunt for the Super Predator," on the Smithsonian Channel on June 25th.