Researchers recently published the results of the largest-ever scientific study of whale sharks–the largest fish ever to exist. The study by scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory has answered previously unknown questions about their migration patterns and breeding grounds.
A massive group of about 400 whale sharks was discovered at a feeding hotspot near Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and researchers wanted to know where they were going next.
By tagging about 800 whale sharks over a nine year period, researchers were able to find out. They fit the whale sharks with ID tags and photographed each of them in order to identify them. (Whale sharks can be identified by their unique spot patterns.) Satellite tags were fitted on 35 of those sharks in order to track their movements after leaving the feeding grounds.
The tags revealed that after feeding, the sharks go all over the place, but one female went somewhere peculiar. She traveled to the open ocean, past the equator to the mid-Atlantic in the second-longest whale shark migration ever recorded. Researchers believe she went to this remote location to give birth in an area with fewer predators.
Understanding more about whale shark feeding, migration and breeding patterns will help scientists better protect these creatures. Since they travel far and wide, international collaboration will be required for adequate conservation measures.
To learn more:
- Read the whole post from Mote: Mote Collaborative Study Reveals Migration of Earth’s Biggest Fish
- Listen to a clip with one of the leading scientists on NPR: Where the Whale Sharks Go
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