Well, friends, Shark Week is upon us, and that means a whole new wave of deep sea mysteries to bite into. One of the most intriguing discoveries arrives in Return to the Isle of Jaws, a Shark Week special that's billed to make a "startling" revelation that causes experts to "re-think everything" they knew about great whites. The question: Can sharks be twins and stay together?
The answer may seem obvious. Since sharks can have up to a dozen pups — which is what shark babies are called — at once, they would all be considered twins or triplets or something like that, right? Technically yes, they're all related, but according to NBC News, a 2013 study found that a single litter of shark pups can have anywhere from one to five dads — so at least some of the time, they're only half-siblings. The real key, though, is that most sharks — including great whites — are considered solitary creatures, and it's rare to find them traveling in packs, even if it is just one other shark.
According to National Geographic, pups immediately swim away from their mother after birth, and are left to fend for themselves as they grow. Family or not, they're seen as competitors, not pals, and many don't survive their first year. In fact, there are even documented cases of cannibalism among sharks, and they're known to eat each other in the womb.
Suffice it to say sharks don't exactly have close relationships, and though their social behavior allows them to establish rank among individuals without getting aggressive, purposefully staying together is "something that has never been seen before," shark expert Paul de Gelder told Entertainment Weekly.
Return To The Isle of Jaws explores this possible phenomenon at a great white hot spot just south of Western Australia, where Gelder and his team investigate why an abundance of male great whites are gathering there in record numbers. "Are these the same sharks returning each year? What's with their strange behavior? And why only males?" asks the trailer.
There's still much to be learned about how great whites socialize, and research has shown that their interactions are surprisingly sophisticated and complex. Is it possible that shark twins can team up in the wild? Tune into Return To The Isle of Jaws July 24 at 9 p.m. ET to find out.