There’s No Place Like Home Even For Whale Sharks

Questions about tagged Whale Sharks

Whale sharks are nomadic, but the recent travels of two tagged whale sharks raises questions about the lifestyle of the world’s largest shark species.

Male whale sharks “Milo” and “Lucho,” tagged last summer near Isla Mujeres, Mexico by marine biologist Rafael de la Parra, director of the Ch’ooj Ajauil AC, have made nomadic journeys of nearly 10,000 miles combined. But unlike nomads, they both found there is no place like home and returned to the same place they were originally tagged after eight months of wandering. Both sharks were tagged with fin mounted satellite SPOT tags in an unprecedented feat—while de la Parra swam with them underwater!

This study of whale shark migrations is being undertaken in collaboration with Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI). The ongoing journeys of these and other whale sharks can be followed online in near real-time at www.GHRItracking.org.

Check out this link to our Shark Track Video: https://bit.ly/2YK0JZD

Milo’s journey is the longer of the two. He swam east, deep into the Atlantic Ocean past Bermuda and returned near the tagging site in February, 2019. Then Milo took a month-long excursion into the Gulf of Mexico, returning close to the tagging site once again, logging more than 7,000 miles.

Lucho, on the other hand, made a shorter voyage. He left in late August on a 2,713-mile swim through the waters surrounding the Cayman Islands, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti and the Turks and Caicos before turning around and travelling to the coast of Honduras. From there, he made his way home to the tagging site by Isla Mujeres in late December. Three months later, he’s still there.

“Tagging these whale sharks on their fins with SPOT tags was a scientific coup,” said Mahmood Shivji, Ph.D., the director of NSU’s GHRI and a professor in the university’s Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography. “Rafael did an incredible job getting this done. The direct satellite communicating technology of these SPOT tags provide much more accurate tracks of the shark migrations compared to the traditionally used data archival satellite tags, which have a lot more positional error associated with them.”

Whale sharks can live up to 130 years!

A whale shark study by the GHRI and collaborators from the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme made news in 2018 when the data showed that whale sharks can live as long as 130 years and may grow as large as 61.7 feet on average. That’s nearly 17 feet longer than a school bus.

“Unfortunately, whale sharks are currently on the endangered species list, so revealing  their migration behavior allows us to better understand, conserve, monitor and effectively manage shark populations,” said Greg Jacoski, executive director of the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation.

A new whale shark documentary was released last month by artist, conservationist and biologist Dr. Guy Harvey. Available on Amazon.com, “This is Their Ocean: Sea of Life” follows the adventures of two students as they swim with whale sharks off Mexico.

 

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