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Great White Shark App Reveals Where Top Predator Is Lurking

Above: A great white shark swims near Mexico's Guadalupe Island.

A team of San Diego-area researchers has created an iPhone and iPad app called Expedition White Shark. It allows users see the location and migration of a dozen great white sharks in the Pacific Ocean.

The sharks' dorsal fins are tagged with satellite transmitting devices. Smartphone users can track the sharks in near-real time when the sharks come to the surface.

Marine biologist Michael Domeier is the man behind the app and president of the Marine Conservation Science Institute in Fallbrook. "The surprise is that great white sharks are not a coastal shark; they really are a pelagic shark, or an ocean-going shark," said Domeier. "They spend less time at the coast than we ever believed before."

Aired 1/24/12 on KPBS News.

Are you worried about great white sharks at your favorite San Diego beach? A new smartphone app reveals where some of the ocean’s top predators are lurking.

Screen shot of Expedition White Shark
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Above: Screen shot of Expedition White Shark

The app depicts each shark with a color-coded shark fin and provides a description about each tracked creature.

"There's the yellow fin that indicates we had a satellite hit from them in the past seven days; and there are gray ones, which are sharks that we've tagged that we haven't had a hit on in the past seven days. There are also red fins in the app that depict where shark attacks have happened," Domeier explained.

Domeier said none of the sharks he’s tagged have come close to San Diego’s beaches, but he believes adult females come to other California coastal regions to mate and give birth.

"The reason I think they are mating when they’re near the coast is because when they’re offshore, they’re so spread out that they probably never see each other."

Guadalupe Island
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Above: Guadalupe Island

Domeier said when great whites come to coastal regions like Guadalupe Island, off the Baja coast, and an area off San Francisco, they are very close together.

"You can go to Guadalupe Island and in any one given day you might see between six and 14 individual white sharks. You can go park your boat out in the middle of the ocean in this area we call "the shared off-shore foraging area," and sit out there for a week and never see one."

Domeier said he's interested in tagging the sub-adult life history stage of great white sharks.

"We’ve learned a lot about the adults, but we don’t know how the sub-adult white sharks switch from a baby life history program to an adult life history program. They get to a certain point where they go offshore into the deep ocean and they also come to these adult aggregation sites," he explained.

The app is intended to educate the public about white sharks, said Domeier.

"We feel the more the public understands about white sharks, the more they’ll care about white sharks. We aren’t trying to tell people white sharks aren’t dangerous and you shouldn’t fear them. On the contrary we would like people to respect white sharks like you do a terrestrial predator like you do a lion or a tiger or bear."

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