Mesoscale eddies influence the movements of mature female white sharks in the Gulf Stream and Sargasso Sea. Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Satellite-tracking of mature white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) has revealed open-ocean movements spanning months and covering tens of thousands of kilometers. But how are the energetic demands of these active apex predators met as they leave coastal areas with relatively high prey abundance to swim across the open ocean through waters often characterized as biological deserts? Here we investigate mesoscale oceanographic variability encountered by two white sharks as they moved through the Gulf Stream region and Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic Ocean. In the vicinity of the Gulf Stream, the two mature female white sharks exhibited extensive use of the interiors of clockwise-rotating anticyclonic eddies, characterized by positive (warm) temperature anomalies. One tagged white shark was also equipped with an archival tag that indicated this individual made frequent dives to nearly 1,000?m in anticyclones, where it was presumably foraging on mesopelagic prey. We propose that warm temperature anomalies in anticyclones make prey more accessible and energetically profitable to adult white sharks in the Gulf Stream region by reducing the physiological costs of thermoregulation in cold water. The results presented here provide valuable new insight into open ocean habitat use by mature, female white sharks that may be applicable to other large pelagic predators.

publication date

  • May 9, 2018