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November 2018    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 33, No. 11   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The “White Shark Cafe”: A Hot New Winter Hangout

from the November, 2018 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Research led by scientists from Stanford University and the Monterey Bay Aquarium have discovered an area in the Pacific, halfway between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii, containing a vast community of tiny lightsensitive creatures so delicious and tantalizing that, during winter, sharks cross miles of ocean en masse to reach them.

During the rest of the year, the northeastern Pacific's great white sharks feed on elephant seals and other marine mammals in a triangle between Monterey Bay and San Francisco Bay, and also around Mexico's Guadalupe Island. But then it was discovered that radio-tagged sharks were leaving these areas in December to aggregate in a part of the Pacific that had previously looked empty. They occasionally make dives as deep as 3,000 feet during the long journey, suggesting they are following prey, but it's still not clear what sharks were eating. What is clear is that their destination, now named the "White Shark Café," is swirling with phytoplankton, fish, squid and jellyfish.

Salvador Jorgensen, a research scientist with Monterey Bay Aquarium, says, "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."

Then, triggered by some puzzling mechanism, the sharks leave this mid-ocean retreat to gather again, starting in August, along the California coast to feed on bigger foodstuffs.

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