Mystery over stunning detail in photo of great white shark

Images of a shark with a massive bite mark next to its dorsal fin baffled the internet when they were first posted to social media.

Twenty-four weeks on there may finally be an answer as to what caused the severe scarring.

The picture of the 4.5 metre great white was taken by underwater explorer Jalil Najafov off Mexico’s Isla Guadalupe and shared to Instagram in July.

The mystery of why a shark suffered a severe bit has been solved. Source: @jalilnajafov / Instagram
The mystery of why a shark suffered a severe bit has been solved. Source: @jalilnajafov / Instagram

Mr Najafov was so impressed with the great white’s ability to heal from the injury he named her ‘Survivor’.

“Mating Scar or act of aggression?” he asked online.

Responses that followed from Mr Najafov’s 136,000 followers were varied, with many in awe of how big its attacker must have been in inflict such a bite.

“Imagine the shark that did that,” wrote one person.

“Most likely an orca attack,” another added.

“Just a nibble,” joked someone else.

New footage showing 'battered' shark stuns the globe

While shark enthusiasts waited for an answer to the conundrum, Mr Najafov posted new vision to Instagram showing another shark with deep scars in her side.

In this case, coercive mating was pinpointed by the photographer as the most likely reason for the damage to her skin.

A second shark was believed to have been bitten during mating. Source: @jalilnajafov / Instagram
A second shark was believed to have been bitten during mating. Source: @jalilnajafov / Instagram

“On rare occasions, during mating season among sharks, 'mating scars' appear on female sharks' bodies caused by the males holding onto them,” he wrote.

The wound looked so severe, images of the shark featured in online newspapers around the world.

‘Shocking’, ‘ripped and battered’, and ‘gnarly’ were just some of the words used to describe the bite.

Internet shark bite mystery solved by experts

On Christmas Eve, Mr Najafov posted to Instagram with an update; the mystery of his original shark injury post had been solved.

After deferring to behavioural ecologist Dr Tristan Guttridge and shark researcher Michael Domeier, competitive aggression was deemed the most likely reason for the attack.

“I’d rule out mating probably due to position as the wound looks like it’s healed a fair bit and although mating scars can be nasty they are more superficial than that,” Dr Gutteridge concluded.

Dr Leo Guida from the Australian Marine Conservation Society said he agreed with the analysis from the international experts.

He told Yahoo News Australia that despite the appearance of the bite, sharks have the ability to survive injuries which look severe to humans.

"Sharks are incredible healers, and can withstand some serious-looking physical trauma," he said.

"I've even seen some that have had their jaws healed over from being split in two by a fishing hook being pulled out."

Shark 'love bites' common and seldom fatal

Dr Guida said injuries from competition between the same species can occur when energy-rich food sources such as dead whales are present.

Looking at the injuries on the second shark, he said it's "fairly common" for male sharks give females what he describes as "love bites" during mating.

"As in most animals, sharks compete for resources which include the opportunity to mate with females, or even gorge on a dead whale for example," he said

"Generally speaking it can be too risky for animals to fight to the death, and it's far better for one to submit and live to fight another day."

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