Shark Week continues Monday with three premieres: Shark Vortex, which explores how warmblooded makos, great whites, and porbeagles thrive in the waters of New England; Return to the Isle of Jaws, which makes a potential major discovery about great white behavior in Western Australia; and Alien Sharks: Stranger Fins, which searches for sawshark in the Bass Strait between Australia and Tasmania and the elusive goblin shark in Japan. It’s a night for serious Shark Week fans with discoveries, filming firsts, and fascinating species. Here’s a preview.
SHARK VORTEX (8 p.m. ET)
Greg Skomal and Joe Romeiro study the annual summer spectacle that occurs as the warmer Gulf Stream pushes into southern New England to meet the cooler Labrador Current and brings with it a multitude of shark species. As you see in the clip above, coldblooded blue sharks mingle with the warmblooded mako, the fastest shark species.
A First: The clip also shows the first time cameras have captured one mako biting another mako in the gills as a threat tactic. “A lot of the sharks we see, including makos, are scarred up. And we always attribute those scars to other sharks, but we rarely, if ever, get to see those kinds of social interactions, where a shark basically says to another shark, ‘Get out of my way,'” Skomal tells Yahoo TV. “To actually see it happen is not only rewarding from a professional point of view but also a little but sketchy when you’re in the water with one of these things saying, ‘Wow, at any moment, this powerful creature could bite me.’ It doesn’t happen, but I’ll tell you it’s a little unnerving.”
For Science: The hour focuses on makos, great whites, and porbeagles because their physiology is unique in that it adapts well to cold-water environments, warming their organs so they can maintain their speed and agility and make decisions quickly — all crucial to survival. Most Shark Week fans will never have heard of the porbeagle, which makes its home in the Gulf of Maine. As Skomal says, it looks like a cross between a great white and a mako, and it’s referred to as a ghost shark in the film because so little is known about the elusive species. Skomal and Romeiro team with James Sulikowski, a marine biologist at the University of New England who works with porbeagles, to try to find one and tag it. “I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t think we were gonna catch one, and there’s nothing more frustrating than being totally prepared to study a species and not being able to find it,” Skomal says. “The more we know about the porbeagle, the better equipped we are to protect them, whether it’s closing an area because it’s a nursery, or it’s modifying the behavior of fishermen in some way so they don’t use gear that’s gonna impact them. Whatever it is, we can’t come up those solutions unless we can define how this animal lives and where it goes. This is the first step to doing that. I think that’s what it’s all about.”
Don’t Miss Moment: Skomal has helped identify more than 280 great whites, but it turns out one — which he’s named Berly and finally gets to tag — holds a special place in his heart. “She’s a big, mature female, and for me, if I want to know where big girls go to give birth to their young, or to mate with big boys, I need to track them, and Berly became an obsession because she’s been elusive. She plays hard to get with me. She only shows up every couple of years, and she’s really an attractive, big, dominant female, and it’s kind of a personal story as much as it is a professional one,” Skomal says. “One of the things that most people don’t realize is that Berly is my wife’s nickname as well. And so Joe and I had an inside joke going during the show about Berly and my hot pursuit of her, as it was also the case when I pursued my wife. Her real name is Kimberly, and I kept calling her Kim early on in our relationship, and she says, ‘You know, I don’t like the short name Kim.’ So I said, ‘All right, I’ll call you the rest of it, Berly.’ But she doesn’t know that this is a big part of the film, so it’s gonna be interesting when I sit and watch it with her and she hears her nickname being screamed all over the camera.”
Return to the Isle of Jaws (9 p.m.)
It’s the follow-up to the 2016 special that followed renowned shark cinematographer Andy Casagrande as he explored a newly discovered great white hot spot — and saw males only. As you see in the clip above, when he returns at the same time of year, it’s still a boys club.
A First: What Casagrande wasn’t expecting to find, however, was two great whites that looked like brothers swimming together. “I was just like, ‘Oh, my God. Am I seeing this properly?’ They don’t leave each other’s side. They disappear down a ledge, they come back. They’re turning at the same time. They’re respectful of each other where they give each other distance, but they’re still staying in formation. It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve seen out of all my years of Shark Week,” Casagrande says. “People don’t really realize white sharks can have up to 14 pups in their belly. If I were born with 13 siblings, I’d probably hang out with them at least for the first couple years, just because safety in numbers. It sort of flips what we think about sharks on its head, because most people don’t think there’s any sort of maternal or paternal instinct or anything remotely cuddly about sharks. If we’re correct, it’s a breakthrough that white sharks develop relationships among family members — or at least these guys did. And no one’s ever even considered that.” He hopes to return to study “the brothers” more, including a DNA test.
The Danger Zone: Casagrande and conservationist Paul de Gelder find themselves in some trouble when the motorized cage they’re diving in (which was nicknamed the Widowmaker off-camera) gets stuck on the rocks in the shallows. “We’d been able to take it down to the bottom, down to 7,800 feet deep, interact with the sharks, get out of the cage, swim with them, and they love this thing — they like to chew it, they like to interact with it,” Casagrande says. “But Paul and I got a little too infatuated with the seals and looking into where the white sharks could potentially be hunting, and we got into shallow water and got smashed up into the rocks. I always find with Paul de Gelder I’m always in very close to near-death situations for some reason, but we’re always having a great time, which is, I guess, why Paul and I are such good mates.”
Was the situation as bad as it looks? “It was way more scary than it looks, to be honest,” de Gelder says. “They didn’t show much of the footage where Andy and I were trying to drag it off the rocks by ourselves. We were wedged between the cage and a huge boulder, and the waves crashing over it almost squashed us. But we eventually just had to call it a day and say, ‘We can’t do this,’ and come back later with the crew.”
Alien Sharks: Stranger Fins (10 p.m.)
The popular Alien Sharks franchise returns with Craig O’Connell on the sawshark mission in the Bass Strait, and David Ebert and marine biologist Victoria Elena Vasquez hitching a ride with a local fisherman in Tokyo Bay, hoping that his net will pull up a live goblin shark from the deep-sea canyon.
A First: After a long wait (during which they spot many other species of “alien sharks”), Ebert, Vasquez, and local goblin shark expert Kazuhiro Nakaya finally become the first team to tag and release a healthy goblin. “Tagging a goblin shark may not just be representative of what it’s like to be a goblin shark, it might also clue us in to life in the deep sea and how other deep-sea sharks utilize that area,” Vasquez says. “That’s the fun thing about being a pioneer on a certain aspect of research, what you learn could be applicable to other things.”
Don’t Miss Moment: The goblin shark has the fastest bite ever recorded, at .16 seconds, which the team — and viewers — get to witness on deck. “It is awesome on a lot of different levels. One, it was reinforcement that the protocol that we had on the boat was working, that these animals were healthy and vigorous [after being caught], because they’re exerting that sort of behavior,” Vasquez says. “It was a really nice moment to be able to share that with Nakaya because he had only seen video up to that point, and we all got to experience seeing a goblin shark protrude its jaws in real time together. It was just surreal.”
History May Repeat Itself: Two years ago, Vasquez and Ebert discovered a new species of lantern shark, which Vasquez’s young cousins helped name the ninja lantern shark because of its uniform jet-black coloring and the spines on its dorsal fin resembling a ninja star. This trip, they may have found another new lantern species. “There’s still a lot of work to go into that, genetic analysis and comparison,” Vasquez says. “We think it’s a new species, but we’re just being very careful as we’re looking over data to make sure that we have made the correct assessment.”
For Science: Vasquez says her professor used to joke that she was his “problem child” because she wanted to study white sharks. But when she told him it was because she was really interested in the science of sharks, something clicked. “He was like, ‘If you think white sharks are cool for what they’re capable of doing, then learn about these other sharks. And if you still want to study white sharks, maybe we can talk about that, but tell me why these other sharks aren’t just as interesting.’ That’s why I fell in love with these other sharks, because of the diversity,” she says. “You wouldn’t talk about mammals in this huge generalization, because besides the fact that mammals include ourselves, you would never put a mouse and an elephant in the same category. So when we think about an intimidating great white shark, that doesn’t represent all species. There’s a species called a shyshark, because when it gets scared it covers its eyes with its tail fin, which is really adorable. … I’m not sure many people know about glowing sharks, or the fact that some of them have these chainsaws on their faces like the sawshark. I always kind of joke that great white sharks are the gateway shark. If you’re really interested in sharks, it’s a great one to start with, but there’s just so much more out there. I think that was the point my professor was trying to make to me, and it really stuck because when I get to share information about lesser-known species with people, they get really excited, because there’s just so much out there to learn and discover. We’re still discovering new species every year. We always like to say, ‘Alien sharks need love too,’ so the more people can support them is great. And if they’re trying to figure out how, the easiest thing you can do is talk about them. People can start learning about something that’s not a great white, and that’s a wonderful start.”
Shark Week continues through July 30 on Discovery.
Read more from Yahoo TV:
Shark Week: How to Prep Great Hammerheads for an Underwater Ultrasound
Shark Week Sneak Peeks: Phelps vs. Shark, and Shark vs. Croc
Michael Phelps on His Shark Week ‘Race’ With a Great White
Shark Week’s ‘Return to the Isle of Jaws’ Has a Major Discovery