First-of-its-kind study shows how juvenile Great White sharks choose their habitat waters

Leanne Suter Image
Tuesday, April 23, 2024
Juvenile Great White sharks choose SoCal waters for temps, study shows
Another first-of-its-kind study from Cal State Long Beach's Shark Lab shows how juvenile Great White sharks are just like many of us.

They may look mean and menacing, but it turns out the juvenile Great White sharks along the Southern California coast are quite picky when it comes to their prime habitat temperature.

"We found they're not that different from people and what temperatures they actually prefer. Just like when people set their houses to 68-72 degrees room temperature... These sharks have learned how to be Southern Californians."

The surprising findings come from a first-of-its-kind study from Cal State Long Beach's Shark Lab.

Emily Spurgeon spent the last two years tracking nearly two dozen tagged white sharks outfitted with special temperature and depth sensors to understand how the sharks decide where they want to be and why.

A small, nearly solid white shark swimming off the Santa Barbara coast may be the first Great White shark newborn ever caught on camera.

She says temperature was the top factor 70% of the time.

"Their favorite is between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. That's kind of their optimum temperature but their thermal preference is a lot wider. Their thermal preference is around 60 to 72," she said.

That's prime Pacific conditions from spring to fall. According to Spurgeon's research, the sharks spend 72% of their time within the first six feet of water, putting them right next to all the others enjoying the ocean.

Which is why researchers at the Shark Lab say state funding is vital.

The number of great white sharks along the Southern California shore is soaring. ABC7's Leanne Suter set out with a team of researchers to find out what's bringing them here, and what it means for those taking to the water.

"I think it's really going to be essential for keeping people safe in the future," said Chris Lowe, director of the lab. "More sharks are showing up, climate change is warming up our coastal waters. We know the sharks are looking for warmer waters so it's really important that we continue to understand these patterns to help keep people safe when they're using the beach."

Spurgeon's research also showed that the white sharks stayed in the depths at dawn and dusk, likely while foraging. They head closer to the surface in the afternoon to warm up and sun themselves - just like all those others along the shore.