Whale shark mapping: scientists uncover global distribution for the largest fish in the world

27 August, 2013

Polka-dotted and striped. Massive but docile. That’s the whale shark for you – the largest fish and shark in the world. But despite being major tourist attractions, the lives of these awe-inspiring creatures of the ocean remain far from being demystified.

However, a team of researchers from Australia may now have some answers to where these whale sharks (Rhinocodon typus) occur. They have, for the first time, predicted the current global distribution of these sharks across the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans, and have also predicted where they could occur in the future.

“My interest for whale sharks started when I realized we knew so little about this species which is important both in fisheries (tuna purse seine) and tourism, providing high revenue in both activities,” says Ana Micaela Martins Sequeira, lead author of the study. Sequeira started studying whale sharks at the University of Adelaide, South Australia for her PhD in 2009.

In the new study published in Global Change Biology, the team collected 4,336 records of shark sightings from fisheries records over several years – 31 years for the Atlantic Ocean, 17 years for the Indian Ocean and 11 years for western Pacific Ocean.

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