South Africa

24 April 2019

South africa

Great White Shark

The expedition is dedicated to the project: “Ecology and Ethology of the White Shark“.
The project began in 2000 and since 2005 the Universities of Calabria and Siena have joined, respectively providing support for the ethological and ecotoxicological part. During the expedition the CSS collects data mainly on aspects of the Social and Predatory behavior of the South African population, compared with data on the sex of the animals, sexual maturity, meteo-climatic variables and more recently examination of the sociobiological identity of the single individuals, individual identification techniques.
The expedition will take place in one of the two sites where the CSS operates: Gansbaai 200km from Cape Town with the fundamental logistical support of Marine Dynamics and Dyer Island Conservation Trust, or Mosselbay 500km far from Cape Town with the logistical support of White Shark Africa.





The white shark Carcharodon carcharias (Linnaeus 1758) is a cosmopolitan predator that lives in almost all the seas of the world, preferring temperate and temperate cold waters between 8 and 25 degrees (Martin 2003, Compagno et al., 2005). It is however present with relatively abundant populations in only 8 areas of the globe: California (Ainley et al., 1985) and Baja California, Mexico (Domeier & Nasby-Lucas 2007), central Chile, New England, Mediterranean Sea (Micarelli et al. 2011, 2015), South West Africa (Ferreira and Foundry 1996), South Australia (Bruce 1992), New Zealand and Japan (Martin 2003).

Research on the biology and ecology of the Great White Shark has increased particularly in recent decades, given also the scarcity of reliable information on this topic and the numerical decline of the species (IUCN Red List classification as “vulnerable”, Hilton -Taylor 2000).

In order to provide a contribution to the knowledge on the basic biology and ecology of this species, in 2000 the Ph.D. Micarelli Primo Oceanographer created a Research Unit within the Center for Sharks Studies, dedicated to Great  white sharks, coordinating with the Universities of Cosenza (Unical) and Siena since 2005.

Since 2000, study missions have been carried out in South Africa, Gansbaai, located 200 km east of Cape Town, to collect data on social and predatory behavior, as well as eco-toxicological data on this animal in the waters facing Dyer Island and Geyser Rock in the bay of Gansbaai, where an important population of white sharks passes, from 2018 the CSS also operates in Mosselbay.

For a long time it was thought that the great white shark was a species with predominantly coastal habits (Compagno 1985, Klimley 1985). In the last decade this image has been completely modified, outlining a new, more complex, idea of ​​a migratory predator that is able to perform long oceanic crossings in pelagic habitats (Boustany et al., 2002, Bonfil et al., 2005, Bonfil et al., 2010, Weng et al., 2007a). Knowledge about predatory and social behavior has also increased, also thanks to the CSS team, highlighting unexpected capabilities and models of intraspecific interactions (Martin 2005, Micarelli et al., 2006, 2008, 2015, Sperone, Micarelli et al 2010 and 2012). The methods of identification of the individual White Sharks by the CSS Team have been progressively improved and implemented (Micarelli et al, 2015), while techniques aimed at the exact measurement of the dimensions of the individual specimens not yet optimized by any are still being optimized. international team (Di crescenzo & Micarelli 2018). Recently, ecotoxicological studies have been carried out to determine the health status of the White Sharks (Marsili, Micarelli et al. 2016). The data collected by the CSS / Unical Team and the methods used were used in a collaboration between the cited institutions and the La Paz University in Mexico, applying them to the white shark population present in the waters of the island of Guadalupe ( Becerril-Garcia, Sperone, Micarelli et al. 2019). The activity of Ecotourism dedicated to the direct observation of sharks and white sharks in particular in their environment has grown in recent decades, allowing researchers and enthusiasts to be able to collect data and learn more about these predators. Ecotourism has become an important opportunity to reconvert shark fishermen into their protectors, creating an important economy, already more profitable than fishing. However, Ecotourism must be developed with criteria that do not damage the resource and their users, as highlighted in recent studies (Becerril-Garcia, Sperone, Micarelli et al. 2017)