A Massive Great White Shark Named Miss Costa Is in Florida for Spring Break

This story is part of Treehugger's news archive. Learn more about our news archiving process or read our latest news.
Miss Costa has likely grown even bigger since she was tagged off the coast of Massachusetts. OCEARCH

If you happen to be swimming in the Gulf somewhere between Pensacola and Panama City, Florida, keep an eye out for Miss Costa.

At more than 12 feet long and weighing 1,668 pounds, it's hard to miss her. Especially since she happens to be a great white shark.

Apex predators of those proportions don't usually wander into Florida waters.

In fact, Miss Costa — as scientists at the marine tracking organization OCEARCH call her — is something of a rarity.

While sharks come and go from the Gulf of Mexico all the time, Miss Costa is among only a handful to "ping" so far into Florida waters. That ping came from a tag OCEARCH scientists fitted her with back in 2016, off the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts.

Overhead view of a great white shark swimming in the ocean.
Miss Costa was tagged off the coast of Nantucket back in 2016. OCEARCH

Whenever her dorsal fin surfaces, the tag sends a signal to a satellite, allowing scientists to map her travels. Earlier this week, they got a telltale ping from Miss Costa as she swam along the Big Bend area of the Gulf near the Florida Panhandle. Scientists don't typically get many details on what sharks get up to get to once they wander into Gulf waters — certainly not as much data as the well-tagged sharks that hang around the Northwest Atlantic.

But that very significant ping has shed a lot of light on the travel habits of these elusive animals.

In the last 103 days, Miss Costa has clocked nearly 12,400 miles, according to the organization's website. Previous pings from this month placed her around Florida's Treasure Coast and then the Florida Keys, a little north of Tampa and most recently, Pensacola.

A shark being tagged on a boat.
The tag emits a ping when Miss Costa's dorsal fin surfaces. OCEARCH

Miss Costa may have even borrowed a travel itinerary from another white shark who ventured into the Gulf. Around this time last year, OCEARCH was tracking the movements of Hilton, a mature male who closely followed the Florida Panhandle. The researchers suspect Miss Costa follows Hilton's tracks so faithfully, she might also pay a visit to DeSoto Canyon, a veritable seafood buffet that cuts the Gulf in half.

A great white shark set free after being tagged.
Miss Costa seems to be following in the tracks of white shark named Hilton who plied the Florida coast. OCEARCH

A sub-adult when she was first tagged, Miss Costa has likely packed on some pounds on her tour. Researchers suggest she could be as long as 15 feet by now. Along the way, her reputation has also enjoyed a growth spurt, thanks in part to a Twitter accountset up in her name.

A great white shark swimming away from a boat.
Miss Costa may be heading to De Soto Canyon for the seafood special. OCEARCH

The account maps her pings along the Panhandle, often from a refreshingly wry shark's-eye perspective. She wouldn't be the only great white with a social media presence. There's Caroline, a 12-foot shark who last tweeted from around Cape Canaveral. And Miss May, a 10-foot great white, who recently pinged from the waters off the coast of Georgia.

But with nearly 10,000 followers, Miss Costa is proving something of a behemoth on social media — which is only appropriate, considering she's by far, the biggest of these torpedo-bodied tourists.

Of course, there's no need to cue the "Jaws" soundtrack, even if your Hollywood-addled brain wants to go there.

While great whites are reportedly involved in more attacks on humans than any other shark, the numbers across shark species are pretty miniscule.

A great white shark facing camera underwater.
About 300 razor-sharp teeth went into the making of this smile. wildestanimal/Shutterstock

Among the 375 known shark species, only about 30 are known to occasionally to see if humans are good eating. Great whites, tiger sharks and bull sharks are at the top of the list of inquisitive diners. Still, we're looking at roughly 75 shark attacks per year worldwide — with just less than 10 being fatal.

If you do beat those one in 11 million odds and get in a tangle with a shark, that might also be a good day to buy a lottery ticket and avoid lightning storms.

That said, sharks have had a long time — some 400 million years — to streamline their game as apex predators. In fact, they're still surprising us with new behaviors. Consider, for instance, the great white who bucked the commonly held notion that sharks don't venture into kelp forests. This one, captured on video, pursued his quarry through a spectacularly dense undersea forest in pursuit of its prey.

It's one more stunning example of what we have to learn, which is why this project is so important. In the video below, you can see how the team tagged and released Miss Costa, all to learn just a little bit more: