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A warmer ocean means more tiger sharks migrating farther north

Scientists warn that the sharks could move into areas that cause conflict with humans.
Credit: wildestanimal - stock.adobe.com

Warming oceans as a result of climate change are altering the migration patterns for tiger sharks, a new study finds. The result could lead to more human interactions.

Since the 1980s, climate change has warmed the northeastern coast of the Atlantic Ocean by 2.7-degrees Fahrenheit. Now, new research published in Global Change Biology shows, during the same period of time, that warming has caused one of the ocean's apex predators to venture hundreds of miles away from its normal migration areas.

Researchers found that tiger sharks were migrating farther north along the Atlantic coast. That movement could alter the prey tiger sharks are used to capturing, possibly resulting in trophic cascades.

Trophic cascades happen when a predator is introduced or removed from an ecosystem, creating a ripple effect to other species. And, since tiger sharks are not particularly picky with their prey, scientists warn the sharks could move into areas that could conflict with humans and other animals. 

Researchers also found that tiger sharks were moving farther away from protected waters, risking interactions with commercial ships.

Tiger sharks receive their name from the vertical bars that cover their sides. However, those bars typically fade once they reach adulthood. Reaching 18 feet long and 2,000 pounds, tiger sharks are the fourth-largest shark in the world.