Smithsonian Institution Scientists Discover the Largest Assembly of Whale Sharks Ever Recorded

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WASHINGTON, D.C.- Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) are often thought to be solitary behemoths that live and feed in the open ocean. Scientists at the Smithsonian Institution and colleagues, however, have determined that this is not necessarily the case, finding that whale sharks can be gregarious and amass in the hundreds to feed in coastal waters. Aggregations, or schools, of whale sharks have been witnessed in the past, ranging from several individual sharks to a few dozen. However this new research, which involved both surface and aerial surveys, has revealed an enormous aggregation of whale sharks—the largest ever reported—with up to 420 individuals off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. What brings them together is food. “Whale sharks are the largest species of fish in the world, yet they mostly feed on the smallest organisms in the ocean, such as zooplankton,” said Mike Maslanka, biologist at the