CLAIM

A photograph shows two great white sharks in the Mississippi River.

FALSE

RATING

FALSE

ORIGIN

On 26 October 2016, web site React365 published a photograph purportedly showing two great white sharks in the Mississippi River near St. Louis:

great white sharks

While it is not entirely impossible, it is incredibly uncommon for salt water dwelling creatures to stay for lengthy periods of time in fresh water. However, two Great White Sharks have managed to survive the trip and make their way up the Mississippi River somehow. Believed to have started as a mating couple, the two are assumed to have swam the 920 mile journey from the mouth of the Mississippi River that is connected to the Gulf Of Mexico. Officials in Saint Louis have contacted the Missouri Conservation Department and will likely have a team in the river soon to capture the two lost sharks.

This photograph does not show two great white sharks, nor was it taken in the Mississippi River (much less near St. Louis).  The photograph has been circulating since at least 2008, when it was posted to Flickr along with the caption “Bull Shark – Rio Sirena River Mouth.” It would be much more likely to spot a bull shark in the Sirena River (which is located in Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica) than a great white shark in the Mississippi River near St. Louis. 

React365 is one of the many web sites that allows people to create fake (but convincing-looking) news in order to, in its own words, “prank” others.  From its main page: 

Create your false news and prank your friends. Share them on social networks! What are you waiting for?

This isn’t the first time that this photograph has been shared with a fake story. In 2013, RFKDNews used the same image alongside a report that six people in Illinois were eaten by “river sharks” after their hot air balloon popped. (They weren’t.)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration provides a guide to identifying sharks based on their dorsal fins.  White sharks, also called great whites, have dorsal fins with a more ragged edge and are darker in color than bull sharks:

White shark
white shark dorsal fin

Bull shark
bull shark dorsal fin

Great whites rarely attack from the surface, preferring instead to grab their prey from underneath; bull sharks tend to butt potential prey with their heads in order to stun it before they bite.