Endangered Species: This is How the Largest Fish in the World is Studied in the Galápagos

A scientific expedition manages to mark ten specimens of whale sharks for their monitoring and protection

JUDITH VIVES, BARCELONA
08/31/2020 13:56 | Updated 08/31/2020 2:00 PM

An expedition of scientists and technicians in Ecuador has managed to tag 10 whale sharks during a 15-day trip to the north of the archipelago.

Whale shark during the tagging expedition carried out in the Galapagos (Jenny Waack / EFE)

Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus), with their twelve meters in length, are considered the largest fish in the world and are in danger of extinction.

The expedition developed in the north of the Galapagos archipelago is to bring new light to the behavior of this species. Specifically, we want to study the horizontal movement of this species, its diving behavior, its reproductive status and its health in general, information that will allow establishing better measures for the protection of this species.

Photograph provided by researcher Jonathan R. Green, shows a whale shark during his last expedition between August 11 and 25 on the island of Darwin, north of the Galapagos archipelago (Ecuador) (Jonathan R. Green / EFE )

Scientists and technicians from the San Francisco de Quito University (USFQ) and the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) participated in the expedition, which lasted two weeks.

In order to mark the specimens, the scientists have used a methodology that consists of the use of a pressure clamp. It is a system that, due to its characteristics, is less invasive and remains on the whale shark for longer.

During the expedition, in addition, 25 new individuals have been identified by photo-identification. The marks of each individual are different and serve as the shark’s fingerprint, they explain from the GNPD.

These photos, which have been uploaded to the “Wildbook for Whale Sharks” platform, serve as part of a global study of aggregations and re-sightings of this species in different parts of the world. This virtual analysis platform analyzes the patterns and reports if the animals have been sighted by divers in other parts of the world or if they return to the area where they were captured.

Photo provided by researcher Jonathan R. Green, shows a whale shark during his last expedition between August 11 and 25 on the island of Darwin, north of the Galapagos archipelago (Ecuador) (Jonathan R. Green / EFE )

In addition, blood samples were taken from two individuals to carry out laboratory analyzes that contribute to establishing a baseline of the health of these species in their natural state.

According to The Animal Facts and Feats, the Guinness World Records for animals, the largest specimen of whale shark ever recorded was captured in 1947 near Karachi, measuring 12’65 meters long and weighing 21.5 tons.

But despite being animals of colossal dimensions, whale sharks are quite friendly to humans, they are affectionate with divers and in some places like Florida it is allowed to swim with them. An image far removed from sharks as man-eaters. Although it is common to find it offshore, it is also possible to spot it near the coast, entering lagoons or coral atolls.

Photo courtesy of researcher Jonathan R. Green, shows a whale shark during his last expedition between August 11 and 25 on the island of Darwin, north of the Galapagos archipelago (Ecuador). The scientific expedition, from the Galapagos National Park and the San Francisco de Quito University (USFQ), has managed to mark a dozen whale sharks to be able to track them through the oceans and learn more about their living conditions and needs (Jonathan R . Green / EFE)

The largest concentration of whale sharks in the world is found in the Philippines, and they can also be found in the Yucatan and Californian peninsulas, Ecuador, Venezuela, Mexico, Puerto Rico, in the Dominican Republic, Tanzania or the Seychelles Islands.

Read at bit.ly/0831lavanguardia or https://www.lavanguardia.com/natural/fauna-flora/20200831/483230235531/asi-estudia-aguas-galapagos-pez-mas-grande-mundo.html

Informing and sharing news on marine life, flora, fauna and conservation in the Galápagos Islands since 2017
© SOS Galápagos, 2020

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