'Shark Foursquare' app tracks all your shark friends in real time

If the Discovery Channel has taught us anything, it's that any human who steps in the ocean will almost definitely be devoured by a great white shark. (Save yer comment, it's not true). Thankfully scientists have devised a novel way to track these finned maniacs all through the ocean, and yes, it has an app.

Stanford University's free Shark Net app (iTunes link, sorry not on Android yet) will allow anyone to track the real-time movements of great whites all through the Pacific. Users can even find photos and information on specific sharks, many of which have been given individual names such as "Bite Head," "Mr. Burns" and "Chomp."

It's like Foursquare for sharks. Except, in this case, the killer fish are "checked-in" via tags connected to their fins that are tracked by a series of "listening buoys" chained to the sea bed or by a small roving army of floating robots. These "wave gliders" are seven-foot long, solar powered machines that will actually follow individual shark movements.

Stanford previously tagged "thousands" of individual sharks all throughout the Pacific, which are now part of the tracking project. The buoys and gliders can read signals from any tagged animal within 1,000 feet. One thousand feet may not sound like much in the vastness of an ocean, however an initial eight-day test of one glider was able to detect 19 individual sharks, 200 times.

Scientists are particularly interested in known mid-ocean shark hang-outs such as the "white shark cafe," a mysterious gathering place located halfway between Baja California and Hawaii that attracts great whites from all around the North American coast.

The information gathered in the project will give scientists new insights into long term shark movements, an important figment of their behavior that — even on this 25th anniversary of Shark Week — remains veiled in mystery.

Via Time Magazine, Reuters