Shark Week – Part 2

Rhincodon typus

Plankton chugging mammoth fish

Whose back maps the stars

The whale shark, Rhincodon typus is the largest of all fish in the ocean today at over 10 meters and 3o tonnes. The whale shark lives off of plankton, a panphyletic group of free-floating organisms, by using a comb-like structure modified from the gills to trap its tiny prey. Individual sharks can be identified from the patterning of white spots on its skin, a very useful trait  for tracking and monitoring individuals of a population. Whale shark researchers have borrowed software from the arsenal of astronomers to identify the spot patterns on the shark as if they were tracing patterns of stars in the night sky. Whale sharks are highly migratory as they search for places to feed and breed. Recently massive aggregations of whale sharks have been discovered, hopefully to yield more information that is desperately needed about the life of these magnificent animals.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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