Great white sharks, much like humans, tend to stick to familiar turf, according to new research. Also like a lot of people, they like to hang out along the coastal waters of California. Sharks tagged with acoustic devices often spent up to 107 days at four key sites along the central and northern California coast where seals and sea lions are abundant: Southeast Farallon Island, Tomales Point, Año Nuevo Island and Point Reyes [LiveScience]. A few of the fearsome predators were tracked as far inland as the Golden Gate Bridge, apparently in search of snacks, say the researchers. The study, the largest and most detailed study of North American great white sharks, provides evidence contrary to the popular notion of great white sharks swimming aimlessly in the ocean.
The sharks under study divided most of their time between three locations: Northern California, Hawaii, and an area that the researchers called the white shark café, a spot in the open ocean about halfway between the Baja Peninsula and the Hawaiian Islands. Exactly what goes on at the café is still unknown–although researchers suspect it may be a hot spot for mating. Lead researcher Salvador Jorgensen explains that male white sharks “converge in a very specific area of the cafe,” Jorgensen said, while female sharks move in and out of the area. “It adds a little more evidence to the argument that this could be an important reproductive area” [Washington Post].
The scientists tracked the snaggly toothed predators between 2000 and 2008 from the Bay Area to San Diego, Hawaii and back as the sharks followed a route that was carried out with surprising precision and under a strict time frame [San Francisco Chronicle]. These great whites have been isolated from other great white sharks near Australia and South Africa for so long that they are now genetically distinct. The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
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Image: flickr / hermanusbackpackers