There are few places in the world where it’s possible to find a baby great white shark.
We’ve known that nurseries for these mysterious and far-swimming creatures can be found off the coasts of South Africa, eastern Australia, and Southern California. Now, it looks like we can add a new location to the mix.
A team of researchers just tagged nine baby white sharks right off the coast of Long Island, which likely confirms that there’s another nursery just outside of New York City.
The remarkable finding was the result of an expedition that included scientists from shark research group Ocearch, the Wildlife Conservation Society, NOAA Fisheries, and several other institutions.
They had reason to think there might be a nursery in the region.
“Researchers and fishermen have been sporadically reporting the presence of small white sharks from the waters off Long Island for many decades,” Tobey Curtis, a shark scientist with NOAA Fisheries, tells Business Insider via email. “It’s the only place on the coast with such a high concentration of baby white shark observations. But this was the first real focused research effort to tag them.”
“This Long Island site is very special, and it’s amazing to me that these sharks appear to be thriving in the shadows of one of the biggest cities in the world,” he says.
If the sharks spend a lot of time in the area, which seems likely as it’s the only North Atlantic spot where so many newborn white sharks have been found, then this is likely the nursery habitat for the sharks. Curtis says it’s likely the pups are born close by as well.
Curtis’s research was one of the main factors that led the team to believe there might be a nursery in the Long Island area. As he told WNYC, he’d scoured records from the past 200 years and found that almost all the baby great whites seen in the North Atlantic in the past 200 years were spotted right off the Long Island coast, where there’s a contentinental shelf, shallow water, and plenty of food.
Ocearch’s GPS tagging system helps researchers (or anyone interested!) follow the sharks after they have been tagged. As you can see on their site, many of the newly tagged pups are still right in the area, swimming up and down the coast. This is probably a good point to mention that these baby sharks are not a threat to humans — they’re too small for that.
In May, a rather-famous adult female white shark named Mary Lee that Ocearch had previously tagged returned to the New York area, which was another indicator that the region was a promising nursery site.
Now that the new juveniles have been tagged, the fascinating thing will be to watch what they do next. Curtis tells Business Insider that they expect that the pups will leave after temperatures drop this fall — the curious thing will be to see if they come back next summer.
“I think the most noteworthy findings are yet to come, as we follow the tracks of these white sharks over the next several years,” he says. “These are the first baby white sharks to be tagged in the North Atlantic and we have no idea what to expect.”
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