A video of two great white sharks ‘attacking’ each other at the Neptune Islands, Australia has been doing the rounds this week. If you haven’t seen this video yet the link is here. What struck me about this video is how ridiculous it is in terms of claiming the sharks were attacking each other but I admit it is an interesting piece of footage. It does appear on first glance that the smaller shark is heading directly for the larger shark but my suspicion from working with these animals in baited situations is that the small shark was pursuing the bait and made an error in judgement too late to be able to correct it and so ended up effectively face planting the other shark. White sharks cannot reverse, their forward motion has great momentum and a collision was inevitable in those circumstances. It is clear to me that as soon as the sharks encountered one another they both veered away in opposite directions and were unharmed. It says everything to me that even in a baited situation, where the sharks may have been competing for food, there was no aggression as a result of such a close encounter. That in itself is rare amongst predators and it never ceases to amaze me the lengths white sharks will go to resolve their differences peacefully rather than being aggressive. We could learn a lot from their manners!


Watching that footage took me back to my time with some absolute characters (we’re talking white sharks here) in South Africa in 2014. The sharks all have very distinct personalities and we have a white shark that we know very well called Pinkie, who is a 3.1m male. He is a particularly lively shark and for his small size he is surprisingly dominant and slow to give way to other white sharks around the boat. White shark dominance is based on size and I have often seen that smaller sharks give way to larger sharks early on in an encounter before they even come close to one another. Pinkie however is an exception to the rule and often attempted to assert his dominance over the 4m females we had at the boat and would only veer away from the bait they were jointly approaching at the last second. I often cringed at the prospect of Pinkie pushing his luck too far and coming away with an injury but the large sharks were always calm and tolerant of his antics. Pinkie will be quite the impressive shark when he reaches maturity and can assert himself.


Check out Pinkie being his usual lively self in this short video.


One of our larger females, Magnoona, was also a regular at the boat this year and she is a very dominant shark and quite rightly so given her size. She was at the boat one day and was leisurely pursuing the bait when a tiny <2m white shark turned up and started approaching the bait from the other side of it. The small shark’s head was narrower than the piece of bait and he clearly could not see around it as he wiggled behind it whilst investigating the bait. Meanwhile Magnoona was following the bait from the other side as we slowly pulled it away. I think the small shark had the fright of his life when he turned slightly to one side and almost bumped noses with Magnoona. Yet again though there was no aggressive interaction and the small shark just promptly left the area whilst Magnoona continued along her way being relaxed as always.


White sharks, like other species of shark, are complex animals and exhibit very distinct social behaviours and preferences. They are not aggressive and have the intelligence to coexist peacefully with one another when they choose to interact. For a really interesting article on shark personalities and preferences please take a look at this link here.