COCOS ISLANDS (COSTA RICA)- Scientists have discovered a 500-mile-long “shark highway” right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, leading sharks, turtles and other marine animals from the Costa Rican Cocos Islands to the Galapagos Islands. They plan to turn it into a protected wildlife corridor in the ocean.

The scientists knew that sharks migrate sometimes south to the Galapagos Islands, but they never suspected it to be the scale it is. To find scientific evidence of this migration they used underwater cameras. And look what they recorded.

16 species of sharks

After spending hours looking at blue water, suddenly dozens of sharks suddenly swam out of the gloom and into view. And more and more swam by. The scientists of the University of Costa Rica, led by Mario Espinoza, and a Costa Rican group called Pacifico, recorded over 16 species of sharks and fish, also sea turtles and dolphins. Most of the sharks were hammerheads, but also thresher sharsk and silky sharks use the ‘shark highway’ from the Cocos Island to the Galapagos.

map shark highwayThe route follows a range of underwater mountains. Called seamounts, some of their peaks extend fairly close to the surface. Unclear still is if the sharks use these seamounts as navigation, or places to feed or rest.

Marine protected area

Thanks to these researchers we have evidence that in the middle of this part of the Pacific life is abundant and needs to be protected. The research team and its sponsors are hoping to establish something new here: a marine protected area that’s not just a patch of ocean or reef, but a wildlife corridor in the ocean that extends for hundreds of miles.

Read more on Alabama Public Radio.