Great white sharks seem to love warmer ocean waters, not cold, surprising scientists

Great white sharks prefer warm water ocean eddies and tend to spend more time inside them then previously thought, according to a new study that analyzed the tracking data from two tagged sharks.

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Ocean eddies are not like the whirlpools found around rocks in rivers for example, but tend to be large whirlpools in the ocean that spin clockwise north of the equator. Scientists found, surprisingly enough, that the great whites tend to prefer these areas in the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic, according to a news release from the University of Washington.

The new study from the university and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution looked at the tracking data from two adult female sharks and found they tend to spend more time than expected inside these deep, slowly spinning eddies.

“These eddies are everywhere; they cover 30 percent of the ocean’s surface,” lead study author Peter Gaube, a senior oceanographer at UW’s Applied Physics Laboratory, said in a statement.

"It's like what you see if you're walking along a river, and these eddies form behind rocks, but it happens on a different scale in the ocean. Instead of being a little thing that disappears after a few seconds, they can be the size of the state of Massachusetts, and can persist for months to years. You could be in the middle of an eddy in a ship and you'd probably never know it. The water may be a little warmer, and it could be a little clearer, but otherwise you wouldn't know," he said.

Credit: Amos Nachoun / Barcroft USA / Getty Images

Credit: Amos Nachoun / Barcroft USA / Getty Images

Gaube said it’s important to learn about great whites and their behaviors.

"We've decimated some open-ocean shark populations to a fraction of what they were 100 years ago. And yet we don't know the basics of their biology," he said.

“If we know where those sharks or turtles or whales might be in the open ocean, then the fisheries can avoid them, and limit their bycatch.”

The study was published in Nature Scientific Reports in May.

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