Analyses of great white shark footage shot by Skyler Thomas shows us there are many fine details in communication that we might be overlooking.
What would your guess be as to what this shark is saying? Once again slowing down footage reveals there is even more taking place with the shark's body language than at first glance. One of the good things about observing white sharks in deeper water is the opportunity to see body language that you might not see up near the surface. As he approaches from a distance we can see that this shark is holding his mouth agape, not just a little bit to breathe, but really wide open. Next we can see that the upper teeth are exposed and remaining in that position as the shark swims by, which is not how the white shark typically looks while it is swimming.
Consider the majority of shark footage; even though their teeth are on our minds, the mouth is usually only slightly open and the teeth can't be seen very well, in fact the upper teeth can't usually be seen at all unless the shark is in the act of biting. With white sharks the upper jaw actually unhinges and rotates forward during the biting process so to see the upper teeth and jaw exposed in a non-biting scenario indicates a very specific effort to display those teeth. Next we see a display featuring the gills, referred by some as gill fluffing. Regardless of what you call it, the gills are definitely being used in a display of some sort (twice in this case). I've been referring to this shark as a he, which was not easy to discern at first because the claspers are relatively small and held tight against the body; it was only during the gill fluffing that the claspers lowered enough to be seen. OK, so back to the question. If you had to guess, what message do YOU think that shark is trying to convey?
All footage shot by Skyler Thomas.
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About the Author
Skyler Thomas is the primary blog contributor, cinematographer, and lead editor at White Shark Video.