The vast ocean is a lot less lonely with a buddy.
Scientists have discovered two great white sharks, known as Simon and Jekyll, who have been traveling together “in tandem” up the coast of North America for more than 4,000 miles.
“This is potentially groundbreaking,” Bob Hueter, chief scientist at marine research organization OCEARCH, said in a video posted to Facebook on Sunday.
“White sharks lead a very solitary existence,” he continued. “We don’t really expect to see these white sharks staying together, but Simon and Jekyll ― they seem to be buddies in the sense that they’re going the same place at the same time.”
Researchers began tracking the two relatively young males in December last year, when they were briefly caught and tagged with tracking devices near the southeast coast of the United States. Since then, the pair of apex predators made the long journey north to Canada’s Gulf of St. Lawrence, swimming together all the while.
Ecologist Yannis Papastamatiou of Florida International University told The New York Times that in his own research, he’s seen white sharks “hanging out” together at specific sites for hours on end. He noted that sharks may group together for purposes like mating, fending off predators or finding food.
In an article last year for The Conversation, Papastamatiou also cited a study of white sharks in Australia that found sharks congregating around a seal colony would tend to spend time with the same individuals within the larger group.
“The fact that white sharks not only stay close to each other but also have preferred buddies got me wondering if maybe these animals were more social than people thought,” Papastamatiou wrote at the time.
In the OCEARCH video, Hueter added in the video that researchers will be analyzing Simon and Jekyll’s blood ― samples of which were taken when they were tagged ― to determine if they are siblings, in case that may play any role in their close relationship.