SANTA CRUZ -- Great white sharks have a surprisingly varied diet, according to recently published research from UC Santa Cruz.
The study, published in PLoS ONE online on Friday, analyzed stable isotopes in shark vertebrae, which grow in concentric rings much like tree rings. Stable isotopes of nitrogen, derived from a shark's food, are incorporated into its vertebrae as it grows, providing a lifelong record of a shark's diet.
Sora Kim, lead author of the paper, conducted the study during her doctoral studies at UC Santa Cruz. She had expected all the shark samples to show the same dietary progression through life, with young sharks primarily feeding on fish and shifting to seals and sea lions as adults.
"We did find that white sharks' diets changed with age, as expected, but we were surprised that the patterns and extent of change differed among individuals." Kim said in a UCSC press release.