Researchers at Mote Marine Laboratory think they have found the "pupping grounds" of the world's largest fish. Wednesday, they published the results of tagging and tracking hundreds of whale sharks, which can be 45 feet long and weigh 47,000 pounds.
"The migrations of these fish have been revealed through our studies to be as much as about 5,000 miles in five months, and these are big ocean-going filter feeding cows, basically," said Dr. Robert Hueter.
All of the tagging was done off the Yucatan Peninsula, including a pregnant female that traveled to the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Further research might confirm that is where the female gave birth.
"We're excited to see other evidence coming in now that there are big females that are pregnant there, and little tiny whale sharks, so we think that is the mysterious pupping ground of the whale shark," Hueber said.
Ultimately, the new information might guide international efforts to protect whale sharks. While their numbers are unknown, they are not plentiful, and they are harpooned in some places.
"We're looking at populations that are over such huge areas that any harvesting, and a fisheries impact in one area, is going to affect the population in another," Hueber explained.
The results of the of the study were published Wednesday in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.
You can read the study here:
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