Scientists have just uncovered an underwater shark lair teeming with deep-sea creatures, and it's showing us how little we know about the lives of great white sharks.
The secret shark lair is a patch of ocean about the size of Colorado in between Hawaii and California.
Researcher Barbara Block had noticed the area after she began tracking white sharks on their spring and summer journeys about 15 years ago, and was surprised to see sharks swim miles out of their way to get to what looked like a square of deserted ocean.
She dubbed the area the White Shark Cafe, even though she had no idea if they were feeding there at all.
But she was determined to find out what was happening at the White Shark Cafe, so last spring, she put together a team of researchers and they headed out on month-long mission to track sharks they had previously tagged. Their findings were extraordinary.
It turns out, great whites love to dive to depths at which humans had no idea they were able to survive.
During day dives on the way to the White Shark Cafe, the animals would plunge 3,000 feet below the surface, a depth that scientists previously thought was way too cold, dark and pressurized for big fish like sharks. During the night, they'd perform more shallow dives anywhere from 650 to 1,400 feet.
As spring approached, the females continued in that dive pattern, but the males changed their behavior. Suddenly, they started moving in a V-shape hundreds of times per day.
Researchers have no idea if the change was related to mating or if both males and females were just approaching feeding in different ways.Giphy
But they do know that the White Shark Cafe area wasn't so deserted after all.
Their expedition revealed that at such depths, the area was swarming with deep-sea creatures like jellyfish, phytoplankton, bioluminescent lantern fish and squid.
Now that scientists know that sharks are capable to diving to such great lengths, they know that those dives might be something of what one researcher called a "vertical migration" to feed on the fascinating creatures far below the surface.
It could also be a more complex cycle that includes mating rituals, as well — the researchers aren't sure yet. But they're armed with all kinds of data from the sharks they were able to track to their lair.
They plan on analyzing it to glean more about those deep dives, because the one thing that's for sure is that we have a lot to learn about these beasts.