Great white sharks off the coasts of California and Mexico, known as northeastern Pacific whites, spend their time between August and December feeding on seals and other marine life up and down the West Coast, but then they disappear into a remote, seemingly empty area of the ocean halfway to Hawaii.
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Now researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium think they know why and they've nicknamed the zone the "White Shark Café."
It seems the predators gather in the middle of nowhere during the winter and spring to feast on a large abundance of sea life, such as squid, fish, jellyfish and phytoplankton, according to the scientists.
What they thought was an ocean desert is really an ocean oasis full of rich marine life that sharks can feast on for months, the researchers said in a press release.
A group of scientists traveled to the area earlier this year to study what they thought was a kind of dead zone.
“We found a high diversity of deep sea fish and squids (over 100 species),” lead researcher and Stanford University marine scientist Barbara Block said.
Block discovered the area more than a decade ago after tracking tagged sharks to the region, Live Science reported.
Block said the abundance of sea life in the zone is enough to support bigger predators like shark and tuna.
Scientists had always considered this part of the Pacific Ocean as essentially devoid of life, instead during the monthslong research cruise, they found “deep layers of phytoplankton (microscopic marine algae) that were not visible in satellite images.”
“These algae, along with the larger animals observed, suggest that the area is more biologically productive than the researchers expected,” scientists reported.
According to Live Science, the team is still analyzing the results from this year's research cruise and hope to find out more about the White Shark Café.