Baby sharks are thriving off the coast of California, researchers say—and when they go hunt, they're a lot more interested in stingrays than people. Chris Lowe, director of the shark lab at California State University, Long Beach, says he's tagged 38 juvenile great white sharks so far this year, three times as many as in a normal year, the Guardian reports. Lowe, who uses drones, planes, and even underwater robots to monitor sharks and how they interact with people, says the young sharks are spending a lot more time in coastal waters this year. He believes the trend is the result of healthier ecosystems providing more food for the sharks—and warmer waters causing sharks to delay their winter migration to waters off Baja California in Mexico. He predicts the sharks may soon stay year-round.
Lowe says this year is unusual not just because of the number of sharks, but because they are bypassing areas they used to frequent and gathering in new areas, including Point Conception near Santa Barbara. "That’s what leads us to think these hot spot areas are nurseries. There’s plenty of food and the water is warm," Lowe says, per the San Jose Mercury News. Lowe, who works closely with lifeguards, notes that the average number of shark attacks in California has remained static at three or four a year since 1950, though the state's population has almost tripled. "There are so many people in the water: you have paddle boards, kayaks, wetsuits, but the number of attacks hasn’t really changed," he says. "That tells you that people are not on the menu, they’re not out here hunting people." (Speaking of baby sharks ...)