12-Foot Long Shark Miss Costa Makes Her Way to Warmer Waters

9 Jan 2018

As the United States is gripped by bitterly cold temperatures, even sharks are looking for an escape from the frigidity of winter into warmer waters.

How cold is it across the country? According to CNN, all 50 states recorded temperatures below freezing (32 degrees F) on Tuesday, January 2, 2018. It’s not a one-day even either, since 90 percent of the country didn’t cross the 32-degree threshold on New Year’s Day and the nation watched as revelers rang in the New Year wrapped in heavy winter coats.

Records are being broken across the U.S. for low temperatures and it isn’t isolated to one part of the country. Even Florida is feeling the frost with waterparks closing and fountains freezing over from the cold. Which brings us to the story of sharks fleeing frigid waters in search of warmth this winter.

This is the story of Miss Costa. She’s a 12-foot long great white shark whose journey is being watched over by OCEARCH, an organization that tracks and studies a variety of marine species, thanks to GPS tracking. OCEARCH first “tagged” Miss Costa with a GPS located in September of 2016. They track her location because she pings a satellite every time her dorsal fin breaks the water’s surface.

In July of 2017, Miss Costa was hanging out around the waters of southern Nantucket. But she began heading south, making an appearance near Wilmington, North Carolina in early November before heading further south near Georgetown, South Carolina six days later. Her journey didn’t end there, though, as she headed further south, making it to the waters near Key West on Christmas and then showing up off the Sarasota County coast, in the Gulf of Mexico on January 1, 2018.

Unfortunately, some sharks aren’t making it south. Instead, they are washing up on beaches after being frozen to death, like three thresher sharks the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy found washed up on the shores of Cape Cod.

While the bulk of land-faring U.S. residents are shivering in the cold waiting for an end to the brutally cold temperatures, we are finding important teachable moments in evolution taking place in the water. It will be interesting to learn why some sharks, like Miss Costa head south in search of warmer waters at times like these while others freeze in the water and wash up on shore instead. GPS tracking and organization like OCEARCH are making it possible to study these creatures and the lessons they have to offer up close.

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