The White Shark Café

The White Shark Café- sounds like a quaint beachfront hut with delicious food, or maybe a much-beloved coastal town restaurant popular with locals and visitors alike. Although there likely is a White Shark Café somewhere in the world, this particular White Shark Café is actually an area of the Pacific Ocean where great white sharks are fond of swimming.

What makes the White Shark Café interesting is that great white sharks are primarily coastal dwelling creatures. There is typically an abundance of species that great white sharks feed on closer to land which makes this their primary habitat; however, currently studies are showing that the migratory and living habits of great white sharks are more complicated than previously thought.


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Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) off South Africa. Photo: Hermanus Backpackers, Wikimedia Commons.

Great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) off South Africa. Photo: Hermanus Backpackers, Wikimedia Commons.

Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research have been using satellite tracking tags to trace the movements of great white shark populations in the Pacific Ocean. They noticed that great white sharks up and down the West Coast of North and Central America were migrating to a nondescript portion of the Pacific Ocean, far from any coastlines or previously-known feeding grounds. The sharks have been spotted in the area primarily in winter and spring, and sharks have been known to stay in the area for up to a few months at a time.

Seasonal migratory pattern and distribution of male (n = 32), female (n = 23) and unsexed (n = 14) white sharks tagged in central California. From Jorgensen et al, 2009.

Seasonal migratory pattern and distribution of male (n = 32), female (n = 23) and unsexed (n = 14) white sharks tagged in central California. From Jorgensen et al, 2009.

Study of the area doesn’t reveal any immediate answers as to why the sharks find this location so attractive- there isn’t much food to speak of, and there isn’t land for miles around. Sharks of all types can be found at the White Shark Café; juveniles, males and females travel to and fro from the area and don’t seem to have any set patterns for how long they stay, when they leave or where they go.

In the past researchers postulated that sharks from different locations rarely, if ever, interacted with one another. This tracking study shows that while the great white sharks might still prefer a loner lifestyle, they do indeed come into much closer contact with one another at the White Shark Café. This contact is intentional, even if no one is quite sure why they’re all gathering together.

Researchers do know that the great white sharks come to this area from all over the North American coast and typically spend about 100 days traveling to get to the site. Along the way they have been known to take dives between 1,000-3,000 and the purpose of those dives is unknown. Tracking the sharks is relatively easy and underwater stations allow researchers to pinpoint the shark trails throughout the ocean.

In the future researchers hope to take the satellite tracking to other species of animal in the ocean, like tuna. This could help find a reason why sharks from around the world meet up in the White Shark Café and what in particular draws them to the spot, be it tasty ocean snacks or simple shark socializing.

References and Further Readings

White Shark Cafe – web site.

Bergeron, L.  (2008, March 5). Electronic tracking system allows scientists to tail white sharks more effectively. Retrieved from http://news.stanford.edu/news/2008/march5/sharkssr-030508.html

Bergeron, L. (2009, November 3).  Tags reveal white sharks have neighborhoods in the North Pacific, Stanford researchers say.  Retrieved from http://news.stanford.edu/news/2009/november2/white-shark-research-110309.html

Jorgensen, S. J., Reeb, C. A., Chapple, T. K., Anderson, S., Perle, C., Van Sommeran, S. R., … & Block, B. A. (2009). Philopatry and migration of Pacific white sharks. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, rspb20091155. Retrieved from http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2009/10/29/rspb.2009.1155

Tagging of Pelagic Predators – White Sharks

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