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10 Jun, 2014 18:08

Mystery ‘super predator’ hunted in Australian waters after devouring 3-meter shark

Mystery ‘super predator’ hunted in Australian waters after devouring 3-meter shark

Scientists and a filmmaker have gone after an unknown sea monster which they believe has eaten a great white shark traced with a tag. Some say a bigger shark or whale could have been behind the killing, but the gathered data points to other possibilities.

The internet is full of speculation on the nature of the mysterious sea creature, following the release of a viral YouTube video by the Smithsonian Channel.

The clip, a trailer for a documentary film, tells the story of filmmaker Dave Riggs and his journey of investigating a rare sea-life incident which took place near the Western Australian coast.

Riggs, who has been contracted to document a satellite tagging project of Australian great white sharks, says he was “absolutely blown away” by data gathered from one of the tags, which washed ashore showing signs of spending days in a stomach.

“There was no algae growth and it [the tag] was white – it looked like it had been bleached in stomach acid,” Riggs told MailOnline.

The tag, which has been analyzed as a sort of “black box” of the studied three-meter-long shark, showed the creature abruptly moving some 580 meters (1902 feet) down the continental shelf before registering a dramatic change in temperature.

The sudden temperature jump from 46 degrees Fahrenheit (7.7 degrees Celsius) to 78 degrees Fahrenheit (25.5 degrees Celsius) convinced scientists that the tag – which was “perfectly” fitted under the skin of the great white shark – was eaten together with its host.

Questions arose regarding what could have devoured a predator that large. Such speculation prompted the launch of an investigative documentary dubbed 'Hunt for the Super Predator.'

Several theories emerged after Riggs spoke to experts and whalers who sailed near the scene at the time of the incident.

Some suggested that it was an even larger “cannibal” white shark that devoured the smaller one. Great white sharks have been known to reach six to eight meters (21-28 feet) in size and over three tons in weight, making the suggestion “plausible,” according to Riggs.

AFP Photo / Theo Ferreira

However, the temperature data does not go entirely well with this theory, as great white sharks are able to maintain a body temperature of up to 10-14 degrees Celsius higher than the surrounding water – and the tag showed a striking difference with the cold 600-meter-deep water temperature.

While cases of killer whales or orcas attacking sharks are well documented, it is not typical of these mammal species to dive several hundreds of meters below the surface of the ocean, because they need fresh air to breathe. The deepest known dive for a killer whale is said to be about 260 meters (850 feet).

But such a dive would be possible for another huge sea mammal – the sperm whale. According to Riggs’ findings, some whalers saw a group of sperm whales passing along the Western Australian cost at the time in question. The filmmaker said he plans on interviewing the whalers for the documentary.

However, it is not clear how the tag’s data would then match the temperature inside the warm-blooded sperm whale’s belly.

Meanwhile, many YouTube and social media users have commented that they are unsatisfied with the current theories, instead suggesting that krakens, ancient creatures, and even Godzilla are behind the shark's demise.

I've always held hope that megalodon was still alive! What else could eat a 3 meter great white!?! http://t.co/jRdb0R6IWO via @IFLScience

— Melissa Golembieski (@Mgolembieski) June 10, 2014

ONLY Godzilla can eat and swallow a great 3 meter white shark. https://t.co/UJQLn8NEEa

— Gustavo Malet (@GusMalet) June 10, 2014

No investigation needed, we know exactly what ate the 9-foot Great White Shark. #TheKrakenhttp://t.co/VQcq9DTJsSpic.twitter.com/0ey437VU3F

— Kraken Rum UK (@TheKrakenRum_UK) June 9, 2014

Others pointed out that the shark may not have been eaten whole, saying that a predator could have taken a bite out of the shark and swam away with the tag inside its mouth.