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Scientists believe a five-million-year-old great white shark nursery, recently found in Chile, may solve the puzzle and conserve the endangered species. The site, experts say, could give conservationists key insight into how the shark developed as a predator. According to Newsweek, a new study in the journal Scientific Reports, global researchers claim that find is the first ever paleo-shark nursery to be found on the planet.
The discovery was made as a result of great white shark teeth assessments at three areas throughout South America.
Initially, the experts had not been looking for a great white shark nursery, however they stumbled upon it after noticing a site where hoards of young shark teeth were found.
These sites are key in helping understand more about the evolution of the shark and little is known about where these nurseries are.
Jürgen Kriwet, Chair of Palaeobiology and Vertebrate Palaeontology at the University of Vienna, Austria, is the study author who told Newsweek that they were “quite surprised to find such high numbers of juvenile white shark teeth in the area”.
He said: “Recently, there was one discovered in the northern Atlantic off New York.
“More might be around, but then again, we first have to discover them and a lot of time, effort and also money is necessary for this. And what is also probably a problem: these areas might shift their locations due to climate change.”
Mr Kriwet also explained that finding more of these locations was of the “utmost importance” in the battle to protect the species.
He added: “Moreover, [if] we can reconstruct shifts due to climate change (as we propose for the past) we can better understand the impact of ocean warming on these important top predators in food-webs and thus also how food-webs might be altered in the future due to climate change.”
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The new find was found near the area of Coquimbo, near Chile.
Researchers were in the process of collecting materials from the local area, again to help cement their knowledge of other species in the region.
The teeth found there belonged mostly to young sharks, experts revealed.
At two other sites on the continent, there was more variety in the teeth they found, with some from young, adolescent and adult sharks.
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The finds led the team of researchers to confirm the site was that of a pliocene great white shark nursery.
Douglas McCauley, Associate Professor of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology at the University of California Santa Barbara, who was not involved in the study, told the publication earlier this year that climate change was one of the main contributing factors to why so many shark nurseries had been lost.
He said: “Part of this is because we have driven adult white shark populations down so low in many areas that there simply haven’t been enough offspring to be able to detect a nursery.
“One thing that is interesting is that this study suggests white sharks may have been a lot more common in the past off the Pacific coast of South America than they are today.
“The fossil record sheds they report on appear to paint a picture of Peru and Chile a million years ago that hosted thriving nurseries full of baby white sharks and buffet zones teeming with adults. But today white sharks are fairly rare in that region.”
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