Scientists are one big step closer to solving the mystery of the migration of great white sharks.
The questions of where they go on their month-long pilgrimage off the coast of California and Mexico and why have plagued the minds of experts for over a decade.
By tracking the movements of a pack of great whites, researchers from Stanford University and the Monterey Bay Aquarium have made a mind-blowing discovery.
The area they migrate to every year was thought to be barren of life, but the scientists have found the great white shark lair is in fact teeming with life.
Speaking about the incredible discovery, Salvador Jorgensen, a research scientist for the Monterey Bay Aquarium and one of the expedition’s leaders, said to SFGate:
The story of the white shark tells you that this area is vitally important in ways we never knew about.
They are telling us this incredible story about the mid-water, and there is this whole secret life that we need to know about.
The area is nicknamed the ‘shark cafe’ by scientist because it was assumed they went there to feed, but truly it wasn’t known if they ventured there for food or sex.
After a five-boat trip, they discovered the area of ocean was abundant with squid, jellyfish, deep-water fish, and tiny phytoplankton.
The ground-breaking discovery was made thanks to 14 years of work by Barbara Block at the university.
She found that sharks were leaving the food-rich waters along the west coast of America to spend spring and most of summer in a patch that looked like the ocean version of the Sahara desert.
Speaking about the mysterious migration, Jorgensen said:
It’s the largest migration of animals on Earth — a vertical migration that’s timed with the light cycle.
During the day they go just below where there is light and at night they come up nearer the surface to warmer, more productive waters under the cover of darkness.
What we’ve learned through the progression of our research is that this mid-water layer is extremely important for white sharks.
They are swimming in these layers, tracking (prey) day and night. … It’s a game of hide-and-seek.
They also discovered a new hunting habit of the fish, observing how it would make periodic dives 3,000 ft deep, which is surprising as such a big fish would struggle to stay warm enough to digest food in such cold and pressurised depths.
They were in fact employing the warm circular mid-water currents to follow prey and keep warm.
Explaining how important this new data is, Barbara Block, of Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station who began attaching acoustic pinger tags to white sharks 14 years ago, said:
We now have a gold mine of data. We have doubled the current 20-year data set on white shark diving behaviours and environmental preferences in just three weeks.
This will help us better understand the persistence of this unique environment and why it attracts such large predators.
Incredible how much more we have to learn about the world around us.
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