Sunday 11 December 2016

Meet Mary Lee, the great white shark taking a bite out of Twitter

When sharks join social media

Published 20/05/2015 | 06:55

Composite: A great white shark shown over a tracker map of Mary Lee's movements off the US coast. Source: Ocearch.org
Composite: A great white shark shown over a tracker map of Mary Lee's movements off the US coast. Source: Ocearch.org
Mary Lee being tagged on board an Ocearch research vessel in 2012. Photo: Ocearch.org
A great white shark. The animal is the world's largest known predatory fish. Photo: Getty
The tag on Mary Lee's dorsal fin. Photo: Ocearch.org
Mary Lee, a 16-foot great white shark, being tagged on an Ocearch research vessel in 2012. Photo: Ocearch.org.

Mary Lee is a real great white shark swimming off the eastern US coast. @MaryLeeShark is her fake Twitter handle. Together, they're taking social media by storm.

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The 3,500lb great white was tagged by US shark research group Ocearch, and its movements can be monitored in real time via its website at ocearch.org.

The shark tracker, which provides insights into the animal's swimming pattern, the distances she travels, and her unnerving proximity to beaches, has proven perfect fodder for social media.

Taking its lead from Ocearch's data, @MaryLeeShark has gained over 65,000 Twitter followers on the back of her witty dispatches (apparently) send from the deep.

“What do you do during Shark Week?” one commenter asked.

“Swim. Eat. Tweet. Etc. Exhausting,” the 'shark' replied.

While the Twitter account is unaffiliated with Ocearch, the organisation has taken a positive view, casting the attention as good news in terms of public awareness, the promotion of shark conservation and an insight into the great white's notoriously mysterious life cycle.

MaryLee3.jpg
'Mary Lee' being tagged by Ocearch in 2012

The 16-foot shark "is completing the first fully documented North Atlantic mature female white shark migration in history,"  Ocearch itself has tweeted.

Ocearch is a non-profit organisation bringing world-class fisherman and leading scientists together in an effort to gather "previously unattainable" data on mature oceanic apex predators. 

Its MV Ocearch vessel utilises a custom-made, 75,000 lb-capacity hydraulic platform "designed to safely lift mature sharks for access by a multi-disciplined research team," it says.

While the shark is on the platform, up to 12 studies are conducted in approximately 15 minutes, with all data open sourced (made publicly available) afterwards.

You can watch the moment the real Mary Lee was caught and tagged here:


Since the success of Mary Lee on social, Ocearch has launched two “official” Twitter accounts - @Shark_Katharine and @RockStarLydia - who can be tracked from the Atlantic.

The owner of Mary Lee's account has identified themselves, following an approach by the Associated Press, as a newspaper reporter living on the East Coast.

So, has the shark got plans to visit Ireland?

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