Eleven years ago, a 9-foot-long great white shark that was part of Australia's first large-scale tracking program was apparently devoured by a "mystery sea monster."
Scientists were baffled.
Now, a documentary called the “Hunt for the Super Predator” is providing some answers to what may have happened to the shark. The film, from the Smithsonian Institution, draws upon a previous Australian documentary on the subject.
Researchers, who had tagged the shark for a study on the animal’s behavioral patterns, found its tracking device washed up on shore four months after its disappearance. They found startling data on the tag: The shark had rapidly plummeted 1,900 feet into the ocean, and the temperature surrounding its environment underwent a dramatic shift.
Scientists said they knew those shifts could only come from the animal being inside another living thing.
"When I was first told about the data that came back from the tag that was on the shark, I was absolutely blown away," filmmaker Dave Riggs says in the upcoming documentary. "The question that not only came to my mind but everyone's mind who was involved was, 'What did that?' It was obviously eaten. What's going to eat a shark that big? What could kill a 3-meter great white?"
Through exhaustive research, investigators determined their shark was likely a meal for "a colossal cannibal great white shark." Researchers later spotted larger great white sharks in the vicinity where their shark was tagged. According to scientists, it is not uncommon for larger sharks to eat smaller sharks, CNN points out.
Apparently it's a shark-eat-shark kind of world.
The documentary "Hunt for the Super Predator" will air June 25 at 8 p.m. on the Smithsonian Channel.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story identified the Smithsonian Institution as the Smithsonian Institute.