Lydia the Great White shark could be pregnant

OCEARCH tagging Lydia, the first Great White to be tagged off the SE coast (Courtesy: OCEARCH)

By Sonya

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- A shark named Lydia that was tagged off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, last March continues to make history. She was the first shark to be tagged off the Southeastern U.S. coast and most recently, she is the first white shark to be documented crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

The founder of OCEARCH, the organization tagging these sharks, is watching her path carefully because he believes she could be pregnant.

Of course at this point, it's all still speculation -- scientists say this is just the beginning of many answers they are hoping to find.

"It is thrilling for us to see Lydia make the first documented Transatlantic migration into the eastern Atlantic is kind of something we didn't expect to see when we started this journey," said Chris Fischer, Founding Chairman of OCEARCH.

Her track across the Atlantic has Fischer wondering if she is pregnant.

"What does it mean this time of year for a big female to be making a move would leave me to believe that she may be pregnant because I think that they give birth in the springtime. That would be like the April, May, June time, so if Lydia starts to make a move toward the beach or some shallow somewhere that is where she would be," said Fischer.

But of course, it's all still speculation at this point.

"We took a blood sample form Lydia and there were no indications at the time we sampled her that she was pregnant," said Dr. Skomal, senior scientist at the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

That was over a year ago though so it can't be ruled out according to Dr. Skomal, senior scientist at the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, who discussed Lydia via Skype.

"Perhaps she was storing sperm from a male that she had mated with and fertilized her eggs in the time period after we tagged her. It is absolutely feasible, but right now we don't have any evidence of that," said Skomal.

"It's entirely possible that big movements are to get away from the coastline, get away from breeding areas because she doesn't need to get pregnant because she already is. We don't know. It's anyone's guess at this stage, but it's been exciting to watch."

Of course Skomal and Fischer will continue to track Lydia's every move because with every ping they are learning more about the white sharks.

"What we are finding out is that their distribution can be much broader than we though both in time and space," said Skomal. "This is the time of year when I would expect white sharks to be down south in warmer water and indeed a lot of our sharks do that. They leave New England when things cool off and they head down off the Southern US in the colder months, but Lydia has done something very, very different."

Lydia has also taught them that White sharks can tolerate the cold water for long periods of time.

"What we are seeing is actual some residency in these colder water pockets where Lydia is right now. That water is in the mid-40s and it just gets colder as she goes deeper, so clearly we are seeing and learning new information about what their tolerance for cold water in this part of the world," said Skomal.

The ultimate goal is to tag more fish so they can really get a sense of how these animals live in a much more comprehensive way.

To find out where Lydia and the other tagged Great White sharks are, click here.