Great White Sharks Spend a Surprising Amount of Time in Warm Whirlpools

New research on the famous sharks explains why.

A great white shark heads towards the camera, just below the surface of the water. (Brad Leue / Barcroft Images)
Barcroft Media via Getty Images

We don’t know much about great white sharks, even though they play a major role in our pop culture. But scientists for years have questioned where the giant fish spend most of their time and what guides their enigmatic movements. Adult great whites seem to head off into the open ocean, far from the prey-rich coasts where they spend their youth. But new research might help answer both of these questions. In a study published recently in the journal Scientific Reports, scientists tracked two female great white sharks, known as Mary Lee and Lydia, using advanced satellite tags in the western Atlantic.

The scientists found that when the animals head to the open ocean, they spend their time in warm circular currents. Overall, the beasts could be found within the whirlpool-like gyres more than three-fourths of the time, and they spent up to 40 percent of their days 600 feet or below. These areas are generally thought to not contain a lot of life, so there is not much prey there, so researchers were confused. But a 2014 discovered that the region of ocean between 660 to 3,300 feet below the surface is home to 10 times more fish than previously though, National Geographic reports. Great white sharks were also found to be “effectively warm-blooded,” so they have to keep their body temperatures above that of the ocean to digest food.

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