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Great spots for white sharks

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7:42pm, February 26, 2008
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From Boston, at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Great white sharks, supposedly ravenous nomads scouring the seas for hapless seals and surfers, show serious site fidelity, returning to the same neighborhoods every summer along the California coast.

Data from more than 100 tagged sharks show that the animals stick to specific routes and destinations, and preliminary genetic work suggests that the eastern Pacific population may be isolated genetically from the world's other white sharks, a finding that has implications for conservation and population management.

The sharks tend to split their time between the coast and the ocean, says Salvador Jorgenson, a researcher at Stanford University. His Stanford colleague Carol Reeb leads the genetic work.

Tracking the tagged sharks revealed that when the animals leave the coast in winter they head either to Hawaii, or to an area about halfway between Hawaii and the mainland. It's unclear what the sharks are doing in this region, dubbed "the white shark café" by the research team. "It's intentionally ambiguous," says Jorgenson. "You might go to a café to get something to eat or you might go to see or be seen."

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