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A study on the beast of the sea the whale shark

A study on the beast of the sea the whale shark

Received Jan 22; Accepted Jun This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Data on the occurrence of whale sharks, Rhincodon typus, in the Arabian Gulf and Gulf of Oman were collected by dedicated boat surveys and via a public-sightings scheme during the period from to A total of individual whale sharks were photo-identified from the Arabian Gulf and the northern Gulf of Oman during that period.

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  2. A challenge in conservation assessment to date has been a lack of knowledge on the population ecology of mature whale sharks. Abstract Data on the occurrence of whale sharks, Rhincodon typus, in the Arabian Gulf and Gulf of Oman were collected by dedicated boat surveys and via a public-sightings scheme during the period from to
  3. Satellite tags, which beam back information about animals' whereabouts, have given some hints, said Robert Hueter, the director of the shark research center at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida. Plankton is the main source of sustenance for these filter-feeding sharks.
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Mean estimated total length TL for sharks was 6. Connectivity among sharks sighted in Qatari, Omani and UAE waters was confirmed by individual spot pattern matches.

Introduction

A total of 13 identified sharks were re-sighted at locations other than that at which they were first sighted, including movements into and out of the Arabian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz. The Al Shaheen aggregation is thus the first site described as being dominated by mature males while the free-swimming pregnant females are the first reported from the Indian Ocean.

This species is distributed throughout tropical and warm temperate seas [ 1 ].

The whale shark is one of three filter-feeding shark species, and preys on a variety of nektonic and planktonic organisms [ 12 ].

Although significant gaps in our knowledge of its biology still exist [ 3 ], the whale shark has been classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species [ 4 ] due to anthropogenic pressures, particularly directed fisheries in south-east and south Asia [ 5 — 10 ]. A challenge in conservation assessment to date has been a lack of knowledge on the population ecology of mature whale sharks.

A study on the beast of the sea the whale shark

Whale sharks form feeding aggregations in a number of regions around the world, including Western Australia [ 11 ], Belize [ 12 ], northern Mexico [ 13 ], the Philippines [ 14 ], Djibouti [ 15 ], Mozambique [ 16 ], Tanzania [ 17 ], the Maldives [ 1819 ], the Seychelles [ 2021 ], Red Sea [ 22 ] and Qatar [ 23 ]. All of these aggregation sites, excepting the Red Sea where the sex ratio is 1: In most areas, the mean total length TL of sharks is between 6 and 8 m [ 27 ], the exceptions being Djibouti and the Red Sea where smaller mean sizes of 3.

In male whale sharks, visual assessment of claspers can be used to determine maturity [ 1728 ].

White Sharks Might Feed On Whale Sharks

Size at maturity for males varies from approximately 7 m in the Caribbean [ 29 ] to 8 m in Western Australia [ 2829 ], with sizes estimated visually, to 9. Maturity in free-swimming female whale sharks cannot be assessed unless pregnancy is visibly indicated by a distended and swollen abdomen [ 3132 ]. The few places in the world where pregnant female whale sharks have been documented include sites off the Pacific and northwestern Caribbean Sea coasts of Mexico [ 1333 ], Taiwan [ 34 ], and around the northern Galapagos Islands off Ecuador [ 3235 ].

Based on those limited data, size at maturity for females is approximately 9 m [ 36 ].

The use of photographic identification in elasmobranchs is a reliable and non-intrusive method of identifying individual animals and obtaining information about populations [ 37 ]. Taylor [ 38 ] took images of whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef, Australia in an attempt to use scars as a means of identification and found that the colour patterns on the sides of the sharks were unique and stable over time. It was concluded that these patterns could be used to confirm the identification of individuals.

Norman [ 39 ] found that the area behind the fifth gill slit and above the pectoral fin was well-suited to identify individual whale sharks; two sharks were identified at Ningaloo over a year period confirming stability for at least this period.

Sightings and re-sightings of individuals within a population can be used in maximum likelihood models to estimate population size and residency [ 40 — 42 ].

Whale Shark Feeding Frenzies Mystify, Enlighten Scientists

The Lagged Identification Rate LIR metric, defined by Whitehead [ 43 ] as the probability of re-identifying an individual that was identified some lag time earlier, is a useful modelling approach for opportunistic sighting data and best-fit LIR models have now been widely applied to estimate population parameters [ 3637404244 ].

Before there were few regional records of whale sharks in the literature from the Arabian Gulf and Gulf of Oman [ 45 — 51 ], with the majority reported in the local press. Here we show that the Al Shaheen area is in fact a globally-significant whale shark hotspot, and the first to be dominated by mature male whale sharks.

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  2. In male whale sharks, visual assessment of claspers can be used to determine maturity [ 17 , 28 ].
  3. The water continues through, but the plankton get deflected toward the back of the throat.
  4. Little is known about where they go and what they do when they aren't in shallow-water feeding groups like the ones in Mexican waters.
  5. The whale shark is one of three filter-feeding shark species, and preys on a variety of nektonic and planktonic organisms [ 1 , 2 ].

Connectivity within the Arabian Gulf and Gulf of Oman is established, allowing us to provide the first regional population estimate for this globally threatened species. This area is one of the most economically-important waterways in the world, with heavy ship traffic related to oil and gas transportation [ 52 ]. The Gulf of Oman is up to m deep while the Arabian Gulf is shallow throughout, with a maximum depth of just over 90 m [ 53 ].

The lack of precipitation and high evaporation rate results in salinity ranging from 28—60 ppt. The Gulf of Oman has more stable and moderate conditions, as the southwest monsoon causes cool-water upwellings.