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Posted: June 27, 2018

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

How to Avoid a Shark Attack

By Shelby Lin Erdman, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

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.

>> Read more trending news 

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. 

>> Related: Great white makes stunning dive into boat injuring 73-year-old fisherman

“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.

NASA Earth Observatory/Flickr
A satellite image of the North Atlantic Ocean in spring 2015. The swirls show the location of eddies, which have marine life that reflects green light. New research shows that great white sharks gravitate toward warm water eddies.
Amos Nachoun / Barcroft USA / Getty Images/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
This photograph of a great white shark was taken off Guadalupe Island, Mexico, by adventure photographer Amos Nachoum.  

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. 

>> Related: 25 great white sharks close California beaches, force swimmers ashore

“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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