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Tags reveal white sharks have neighborhoods in the north Pacific, say Stanford researchers
Date:11/3/2009

The white shark may be the ultimate loner of the ocean, cruising thousands of miles in a solitary trek, but a team of researchers has discovered that the sharks have maintained such a consistent pattern of migration that over tens of thousands of years the white sharks in the northeastern Pacific Ocean have separated themselves into a population genetically distinct from sharks elsewhere in the world.

"White sharks are a large, highly mobile species," said Salvador Jorgensen, a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station. "They can go just about anywhere they want in the ocean, so it's really surprising that their migratory behaviors lead to the formation of isolated populations."

Scientists with the Tagging of Pacific Predators (TOPP) program combined satellite tagging, passive acoustic monitoring and genetic tags to study white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) popularly known as great white sharks in the North Pacific. The team consisted of researchers from Stanford University, University of California-Davis, Point Reyes Bird Observatory and the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation, and the details of their study are to be published online Nov. 3 by the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The fact that the northeastern Pacific white sharks undergo such a consistent, large-scale migration, and that they are all closely related and distinct from other known white shark populations, suggests that it is possible to conduct long-term population assessment and monitoring of these animals.

Barbara Block, professor of marine sciences at Stanford and a coauthor of the paper, said, "Catastrophic loss of large oceanic predators is occurring across many ecosystems. The white sharks' predictable movement patterns in the northeastern Pacific provide us with a super opportunity to establish the census numbers and monitor these unique populations. This can help us ensure their protection for future generations."

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Contact: Louis Bergeron
louisb3@stanford.edu
650-725-1944
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert  

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