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The biggest fish in the world is a gentle giant
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The biggest fish in the world is a gentle giant

Seeing spots

The biggest fishes in the world are whale sharks. They can grow up to 40 feet long and weigh as much as 40 tons.

To get so big they eat lots of small things called plankton, as well as fish and squid.

Despite their large size, whale sharks are not a threat to scuba divers or swimmers. In fact, some businesses seek out the sharks so their clients can swim with them.

Whale sharks like warm, tropical waters, like those found near the Philippine islands and Australia.

To understand where and how whale sharks move, scientists can identify individual fish by the pattern of the dots on their skin. Each whale shark has a unique design.

Anyone who is lucky enough to see a whale shark can help researchers by taking a photo of the fish and submitting it to the The Wildbook for Whale Sharks, an online site. The site uses technology developed by NASA that scans the whale shark’s skin spots to see if it has been photographed by anyone else.

In addition to providing an estimate to the number of sharks, the website can also track individual sharks and where they travel. So far the site has identified more than 12,000 sharks from 75,000 sightings by more than 8,700 citizen scientists and 200 researchers and volunteers.

You can even adopt one of the whale sharks. Money raised from the adoptions helps fund whale shark research.

Another group of scientists is tagging whale sharks with devices that show where the big fish go. Most stay in an area about 125 miles from shore. Yet they are capable of diving more than 3,000 feet deep.

— Brett French, french@billingsgazette.com

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