Great white shark numbers are not well understood, but the species is considered vulnerable. (File photo)
The world's only captive great white shark has died just three days after joining an exhibit at a Japanese aquarium.
The 11 1/2-foot-long shark, caught off the coast of Japan, was transferred to an exhibit called "The Sea of Dangerous Sharks" at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium on Tuesday. It died Friday, the aquarium said in a statement, after the shark's condition took a sudden turn for the worse.
Aquariums have for decades tried to keep great white sharks, the world's largest known predatory fish, in captivity, but tank life has proven to be a challenging environment.
The shark, a torpedo-shaped symbol of terror popularized by the "Jaws" movies, is an open-water fish that swims fast, rips its prey to pieces and never encounters walls in its natural surroundings. In the confines of a tank, they will often refuse to eat, experts said.
Great white shark numbers are not well understood, but the species is considered vulnerable. In announcing the exhibit, the aquarium said the fish's biology was little understood and that it hoped to learn from the captive shark.
But shark experts acknowledge that some aquariums have been driven equally by profit.
"It's purely climb-the-mountain stuff," said George H. Burgess, a shark expert at the Florida Museum of Natural History. "In the world of aquaria, where you bring in your clientele, the visitors, based on your attractions, it's an attraction you would have that nobody else would have."