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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday: Big Fish

The whale shark is the largest fish in the ocean growing to be as big as 41 feet long (or much larger if some fishermen's claims are to be believed). While their profile seems more in line with the latter half of their name, the whale shark - like most whales - feeds on plankton or very small fish through a filter feeding system.
They  pose no threat to humans - except by accident perhaps, due to their large size.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said in reverse as the whale shark is a threatened species due to commercial fishing and oil spills.
Whale sharks don't move very fast, but they are beautiful and graceful creatures, as you can see in this video from

Wow, right? These are such awesome animals, and their names in other countries confirm this opinion.
In Vietnamese culture, the whale shark is called "Ca Ong," which means "Sir Fish" and is considered a deity. In Madagascar, they are called "marokintana," meaning "many stars." Tourists often travel to whale shark habitats to swim with these giant fish, something the whale sharks don't seem to mind and perhaps even enjoy.
However, just to be sure that anxious tourists were not upsetting the normal feeding patterns of the whale sharks, researchers from ECOCEAN decided to observe the behavior of a whale shark upon encountering a group of tourists. The best way to do this was to equip the great beast with the extremely cool (and harmless) critter cam.
Check out this video from National Geographic to see the results.

ECOCEAN has set up a website devoted to the enigmatic whale shark if you want to learn more. You can even adopt a whale shark to help in the conservation of this amazing species.

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