Whale Shark Poops on Camera; Scientists Rejoice

By Nina Bai | November 17, 2008 8:04 pm

whale sharkYou might think these scientists were potty training this whale shark based on their level of excitement when the giant fish (the world’s largest) finally had a bowel movement. The scientists, like some proud parents, even captured the moment on film. Researcher Mark Meekan described the rare poop, which he collected and stored in tiny vials, as “scientific gold” for the clues it would contain about the shark’s diet.

The researchers are studying the whale shark (Rhinsodon typus), a gentle cousin of the great white shark, to learn about the species’ mysterious feeding habits and migration patterns. DNA analysis of the poop confirmed that whale sharks, which can grow up to 12 meters long, sustain themselves on tiny red crab larvae. This also explains why they travel to Christmas Island, just south of Indonesia, where millions of red crabs spawn each year.

The researchers are also attaching temporary cameras and GPS trackers to the backs of whale sharks to get a whale-shark-eye’s view of their daily movements in deep waters. Some of the footage will be aired as part of a new BBC documentary on the whale shark. If only the researchers would take a cue from the puppy cam and start a whale shark cam, office workers all over the world could share in the deep sea excrement excitement.

Related Content:
DISCOVER: Charting the Whale Shark Universe
80beats: Whale Shark Dive Bombs Through Deep Waters Like Giant Raptors

Image: flickr / SolGrundy

MORE ABOUT: feces, fish, whale shark
  • Jacob

    If a whale shark can grow 12 meters long… what does that say about its poo?

  • Indy

    wonderful article title!

  • Cheesehead024

    What an odd job to have…

  • Jen

    Why is a whale shark pooping so rare? Also, wouldn’t the poop be bigger than simply filling a few tiny viles if the whale shark is the world’s largest fish? I also found it interesting that their diets consist mainly of tiny red crab larve, if they are so large. It must take a LOT of red crab larve to feed only one whale shark! If so, are the whale sharks endangering many red crabs?

  • Jon

    How does the water affect the poop? Is the reason it is so rare because it often dissolves before we can get a record of it?

  • http://www.seefeld.com/de/orte/reith.php Reith

    want to ride some whale sharks? LOL, its fun to read this kinds articles.

  • MABRY MIDDLE

    we are students doing an imovie on whale sharks.
    if you know of any scientists willing to help us, please email:
    mabrymsimovies@gmail.com

    with a subject of WHALE SHARKS.
    thank you

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