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Bloody bite on 11-foot shark is from something bigger and more aggressive, experts say

What bit this 11-foot, 7-inch shark in the Northwest Atlantic? OCEARCH experts suspect it was another shark.

What bit this 11-foot, 7-inch shark in the Northwest Atlantic? OCEARCH experts suspect it was another shark.

Facebook screenshot

An 11-foot, 7-inch great white shark pulled from waters off Nova Scotia this week was sporting a large bite wound that was recent enough to still be bleeding.

OCEARCH, a global nonprofit organization, shared a photo of the grisly injury on Facebook, showing it extended from belly to back on the 1,264-pound female.

A chunk of flesh was missing near the top of the bite and five gashes (presumably from teeth) were closer to the bottom.

What would attack a nearly 12-foot long apex predator?

“Another larger white shark,” OCEARCH wrote Wednesday.

“This interaction was possibly an example of dominance behavior. It is not uncommon for sharks to show their dominance over a smaller animal of their species by delivering a significant but non-fatal bite.”

The researchers named the shark Maple, a reference to “one of Canada’s national emblems.”

White sharks grow to as long as 20 feet, experts say, hinting her attacker could have been much, much larger. The freshness of the bite indicates it was also nearby.

Maple (a “sub-adult”) was caught and tagged off West Ironbound Island in Nova Scotia, as part of a four-week OCEARCH expedition. The team hopes to collect data from as many as two dozen sharks, all of which will be released unharmed back into the North Atlantic.

It is believed white sharks spend summer and fall in Canadian waters, making it a key region for shark research along the East Coast, the agency reports. OCEARCH has tagged white sharks as big as 17 feet off Nova Scotia during past expeditions, McClatchy News reports.

News of the fresh wound comes just days after the Atlantic Shark Institute posted a photo of a female white shark that had an equally impressive “fresh bite.” In that case, the aggressor had taken out a chunk of pectoral fin, the photo showed.

Bites found on white sharks are often credited to a brutal form of mating that sees males “grabbing the females with their teeth,” OCEARCH says. However, in some cases the females bite back as a means of rejecting male overtures, experts say. The species is known for rapid healing, making the bites a minor inconvenience.

“Our veterinarian on board assessed the wound (on Maple) and decided that it would be best to let it heal on its own!” OCEARCH wrote.

The post featuring her wound has gotten about 1,600 reactions and comments in the past day, including some commenters who wondered if the shark had been attacked multiple times.

Others shuddered at the idea something much larger was nearby.

“It’s just dominance behavior from a BIGGER white shark. … (H)ang on, I’ll just get the snorkel and fins,” Laura Alexander wrote.

“Nope,” Geoffrey Owens responded.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer

Mark Price has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1991, covering beats including schools, crime, immigration, LGBTQ issues, homelessness and nonprofits. He graduated from the University of Memphis with majors in journalism and art history, and a minor in geology.

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