Scientists have issued a warning to beach-goers as killer sharks could be heading towards UK waters, a new study has found.
According to new research, the migration patterns of tiger sharks are moving northwards as a result of climate change, which makes British beaches a prime target.
The species are only second to great whites in recorded fatal attacks on humans and can measure to a staggering size of 14ft.
Experts at the University of Miami say the change in patterns has shifted the predators movements outside of protected areas, which makes sharks more exposed to commercial fishing.
The study revealed that the locations and timing of tiger shark movement in the western North Atlantic Ocean have altered due to rising ocean temperatures.
Researchers said that the march of tiger sharks are constrained by the need to stay in warm waters as they are the largest cold-blooded apex predator in tropical and warm-temperate seas.
While waters off the US northeast coastline have historically been too cold for tiger sharks, temperatures have warmed significantly in recent years making them suitable for the species.
Study lead author Professor Neil Hammerschlag, director of the UM Shark Research and Conservation Programme, said: “Tiger shark annual migrations have expanded poleward, paralleling rising water temperatures.
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“These results have consequences for tiger shark conservation, since shifts in their movements outside of marine protected areas may leave them more vulnerable to commercial fishing.”
Prof Hammerschlag and the research team discovered the climate-driven changes by analysing nine years of tracking data from satellite tagged tiger sharks.
This was combined with nearly 40 years of conventional tag and recapture information supplied by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Cooperative Shark Tagging Programme and satellite derived sea-surface temperature data.
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The study found that during the last decade, when ocean temperatures were the warmest on record, for every one-degree Celsius increase in water temperatures above average, tiger shark migrations extended farther poleward by roughly 250 miles and sharks also migrated about 14 days earlier to waters off the US north eastern coast.
The results may have greater ecosystem implications, according to the researchers.
Prof Hammerschlag added: "Given their role as apex predators, these changes to tiger shark movements may alter predator-prey interactions, leading to ecological imbalances, and more frequent encounters with humans."
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