SYDNEY – An Australian scientific research agency announced on Friday that it will collect DNA samples from whale sharks at the Ningaloo Reef in the northwest of the country to determine the age of this giant elusive fish.
The research team of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) will also use satellite tags to study their migration routes and depth of their dives, which are estimated to be around 1.8 kilometers.
The collection of genetic samples will help determine the age of these sharks (Rhincodon Typus) the world’s largest fish, which can live up to 100 years, and help “estimate the population on the western coast of Australia and the eastern Indian Ocean,” CSIRO Senior Scientist Dr Richard Pillans said in a statement.
“Previous tagging has revealed whale sharks travelling south to Perth and others have been located as far as the Gulf of Carpentaria, 3,500 km away,” Pillans added.
The whale shark, whose behavior is difficult to study because it is a very elusive animal, feeds on Ningaloo Reef, part of the Ningaloo Coast, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011.
On World Oceans Day, Pillans remarked that whale sharks are not immune to threats to their marine habitats.
“There’s still a lot to learn about whale sharks and the potential impacts of a changing marine environment but with more research we hope to find out more, including where whale sharks mate and where they go to give birth to their live young,” the expert said.
Whale sharks have a greyish back with circular patches and horizontal and vertical white or yellow lines and a completely white belly.
The species also lives in the tropical waters of other countries such as Honduras, Australia, the Philippines and Tanzania.
Whale sharks are listed as an endangered species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and are protected in Australia.