Marine Biologists have mapped out the routes of leatherback turtles and grey whales, both species famous for their long-distance migration patterns. The Arctic tern annually flies from Iceland and Greenland to the coast of the Antarctic and within six months duplicates the astonishing feat in reverse by returning north. A total distance of over 44,000 miles (70,000 km). Now new research reported in the journal Marine Biodiversity Records shows that whale sharks are no slouches when it comes to tacking on big mileage.
In 2011 a research team attached a transmitter to “Anne” a whale shark in the Pacific off Panama. They then followed Anne’s migration for 841 days from Panama, south to the Galapagos Islands and west across the Pacific to the Marianas Trench, south of Japan. A total distance of over 20,000 kilometers or (12,500 miles). (photo – Zac Wolf, Georgia Aquarium, Wikimedia Commons)
Long Distances, Deep Dives
This is one vital statistic on an otherwise mostly blank page of what we really know about whale sharks, surprising since the whale shark is the world’s largest fish. That scarcity of knowledge is partially because it has been difficulty to track the movements of whale sharks. Even Anne’s whereabouts were unknown for a 235-day period during which she was apparently swimming too deep for the satellite to receive her transmissions. Whale sharks can dive to depths of more than a mile.
It is hoped that the data acquired from Anne’s trek will shed light on why whale sharks migrate? Are they searching for a mate or food? This data comes at a critical time for the whale shark. Declared by the IUCN in 2016 as an endangered species, with less than half the number of whales sharks alive today that existed 75 years ago. Find out more at EcoWatch.
By Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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