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Alabama researchers spot a rare great white shark off the Gulf coast

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A research team from the University of South Alabama got more than they bargained for when they spotted a great white shark. It’s the reportedly the first time such a ocean predator has been recorded in Alabama waters.

The female shark is nicknamed "Miss Pawla." It was captured on footage while the USA team was using underwater camera to study an artificial reef. The predator had scars beside its left eye as it stared into the camera. Published reports say revealed more marks on its side as it swam. WVTM-TV reports the 8-foot-long shark “Miss Pawla” is a juvenile, maybe fifteen years of age. Great whites can reportedly live to seventy years and grow to over twenty feet in length.

Newsweek quotes the International Shark Attack File that Alabama has only seen ten unprovoked shark attacks since records began in 1837. The state with the most attacks is Florida, with just over nine hundred confirmed attacks. Great white sharks are one of the "big three" species known for attacks on humans. The bull shark and tiger shark are the other aggressive types. Shark attacks remain extremely rare and the toothy fish rarely come into contact with humans.

The magazine spoke with the Stokes School of Marine and Environmental Sciences on the Alabama great white shark sighting. Director Sean Powers says it’s rare for one to be seen in the State’s Gulf waters, with New England and California being more popular spots for the sharks to prowl.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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