Marine biologist Barbara Block has studied the movements and habits of great white sharks long enough to recently note something interesting about the sharks she tagged almost 20 years ago. Contrary to what scientists believed, these apex predators weren’t feeding in the food-rich waters off the western coast of North America. Instead, they were traveling a thousand miles away to the coast of Baja California in Mexico where satellite images suggested the area had very little life, reports Merrit Kennedy for NPR.
Curiosity about why these sharks would travel to an ocean desert led Block’s team to prepare new research to find out. “We wanted to know if there was a hidden oasis that was formed by the currents that we couldn’t see from space,” she said. Last fall, the team tagged over 30 great white sharks, and set sail this spring on the research vessel Falkor toward the mysterious area. They found that the sharks were indeed swimming to this area, nicknamed the “White Shark Café.” Despite satellite images to the contrary, they found a nutrient-rich plant life with a complete food chain.
From their observations, researchers believe the area has “adequate food supply … for big animals like tunas and the sharks,” explains Bruce Robison, senior scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. In fact, they found the area so diverse with animal life such as fish, squids, crustaceans and jellyfish, that the team is gathering evidence for the White Shark Café to be officially protected by the U.N. cultural agency.