The TOPP white shark team made headlines today with a landmark publication in the Proceedings of the Royal Academy B. The study, entitled, “Philopatry and migration of Pacific white sharks,” utilized satellite tagging, passive acoustic monitoring and genetic tags to study the migration and population structure of white sharks in the northeastern Pacific over the years from 2000-2008.
The study reveals that although these sharks undergo migrations covering thousands of miles, they return to the same local hotspots year after year. Comparison of mitochondrial DNA to white sharks from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa indicate that the sharks off northern California are genetically distinct – and appear to have become isolated from the rest of the population some time in the past 150-200 thousand years.
By using acoustic tags, which are detected by stationary receivers scattered around various places in the ocean, the researchers were able to detect more fine-scale movement patterns that are possible with satellite tags. These results showed that the sharks appear at some surprising places – among the Hawaiian Islands and under the Golden Gate Bridge!
Not surprisingly, the story has received a great deal of media attention, with stories in the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, the TimesOnline, and the Telegraph.