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  Seaweek 2005 - Save Our Sharks - Student Info sheet    
Student Information Sheet 5 - The Whale Shark
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What kind of environment do they live in?
Although whale sharks are most often seen swimming at the surface during ‘seasonal’ gatherings, evidence from research has shown that whale sharks can dive to great depths (about 700 metres). They also remain away from the surface for long periods.

They regularly appear at locations where seasonal food ‘pulses’ are known to occur. The predictable annual whale shark gathering at NMP is closely linked with an increase in productivity of the region associated with a mass coral spawn that occurs around March/April each year. It is likely that this represents a critical event in the life cycle of this species.


Acoustic-tracking studies at NMP have revealed that individual whale sharks sometimes stay close to Ningaloo Reef over day/night periods. In addition, using the ECOCEAN Whale Shark Photo-identification Library, it has been possible to record many sharks returning to Ningaloo in different years and staying there over long periods. As an example, one individual was sighted at Ningaloo Marine Park on 14 separate days over a 28-day period within a small area.

Are they migratory?
Whale sharks are highly migratory, but little is known about their migration patterns. Research at NMP has shown that at least some sharks take a northerly route when leaving the area. Satellite tracking has shown that they can travel great distances.

Satellite-tagged whale sharks in 2002

Next - What threatens the survival of Whale Sharks?

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Save Our Sharks March 6 to 13, 2005