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This New Theory May Explain Why Sharks Travel Thousands of Miles to the White Shark Cafe

The White Shark Cafe sounds like a place great whites might sit around sipping lattes. But the real reason for this underwater hotspot is more complicated.


The White Shark Cafe sounds like a place great whites might sit around sipping lattes. But do researchers really think sharks are taking a coffee break when they gather in one of the most remote areas of the Pacific Ocean?

Photo Credit: Deviant Art

More than a decade ago, scientists from California to South Africa began attaching acoustic tags to the dorsal fins of great whites. Each tag contains a code specific to that particular shark.

Whenever the great white shark swims within 850 feet of one of the strategically placed receivers, the code for that shark is transmitted via satellite to the scientists back on dry land.

Some of the new tags even have cameras, giving us a shark’s-eye view of its watery world.

The tags, which are kind of like Fitbits for sharks, allowed us to see, for the first time, the long migrations white sharks make halfway across the Pacific.

The same sharks that frequent the coast of California in the fall swim south and west for the winter and spring. Some travel to Hawaii to hunt whale calves and dine on their yummy placentas before returning to their California chomping grounds.

But about 80 percent swim straight for a mysterious stop at what scientists have dubbed the White Shark Cafe.

The White Shark Cafe is in what's known as an ocean desert, meaning there’s not a lot of food to find, and sharks don’t stop to eat much on the month-long migration from California to the cafe.

Because they need to eat to maintain their massive livers, which keep them buoyant, their time at the cafe is limited. So why swim all the way out there just to turn around a couple months later and head east again?

What exactly the cafe serves up is still a mystery, but according to Monterey Bay Aquarium researcher Sal Jorgensen, going to a cafe is as much about socialization and perhaps meeting up with a special someone as it is about what you order.

Yep, the sharks may swim thousands of miles just to get laid.

Like many guys on the prowl, male shark behavior gets really weird once they enter the cafe.

According to the data from the tags — which measure depth, temperature and swimming speed — the males zip up and down in the water column, diving to 200 meters up to 150 times a day.

The scientists analyzing the data think this might be part of a millions-of-years-old mating ritual, but to find out what’s really on the menu at the White Shark Cafe, they’ll need to tag more sharks and head out to the cafe to see for themselves what's happening there.

Until then, check out the soon-to-open White Shark Cafe for humans on Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, where your purchase will go toward the conservation of sharks. The owners claim it’s the place where coffee and sharks (well, shark education) actually do meet!

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