By Jennifer Earl, ,
Published April 27, 2018
A real life "Jaws" named Hilton was spotted in the Gulf of Mexico just west of the Florida Keys this week. The great white shark, a Twitter celebrity with more than 22,000 followers, was tagged by OCEARCH —a non-profit organization that researches great white sharks and other apex predators.
OCEARCH researchers have been following the 12-foot great white's route since March 2017 when they tagged the shark near Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Hilton, weighing in at 1,326 pounds, is fitted with a tag that pings to transmit his location when his fins break the surface.
The shark has traveled up and down along the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean — from Nova Scotia to Florida — but he's never been seen in the Gulf of Mexico before. He's been in the waters for nearly two weeks now.
"Since then he's made his way toward the Florida panhandle, a famous fishing ground for sport fishermen. No doubt Hilton's doing a little fishing of his own, chowing down on the many fish of the canyon and shelf region there," Dr. Robert Hueter, OCEARCH chief science advisor and mote marine laboratory senior sientist, said in an online statement.
According to OCEARCH, Hilton's last "ping" was recorded on Friday at 11:49 a.m. The shark has traveled nearly 80 miles in the past 24 hours and a total of 10,029 miles since he was first tagged.
"After spending last spring near the shelf and canyons off North Carolina, Hilton is spending this spring further south, along the Florida Escarpment and DeSoto Canyon in the Gulf," Dr. Bryan Franks of Jacksonville University explained, according to an OCEARCH Facebook post. "The common factor: those interesting bottom features that likely hold a nice buffet of food and a range of water temperatures."
The sighting sparked hilarious comments from Hilton fans across the world.
"Maybe he's headed to Mexico for Cinco de Mayo!" one Facebook user wrote.
"Hilton, what are you doing way over there in the gulf? How did you travel across land in Florida? Inquiring minds want to know! Come back to South Carolina. We miss you!" another wrote.
"Looks like he took a side trip to Disneyworld! Hope Ariel is safe!" one user joked.
Hilton greeted his fans on Twitter Friday.
"Hello Florida! Anyone know where I can find some fish?" the shark's account tweeted.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.