I'm sending out my first email newsletter of the year later today! This one will be about biofluorescence, which I'm currently obsessed with. Lots of fishes have their own secret way to communicate, which us humans - and most marine predators - can't even see. So very cool. I want to learn all the things about it. If you'd like to read more about biofluorescence, and whatever else I get randomly interested in, you can sign up for my newsletters via my bio link (@simonjpierce). 😁
What's the most interesting whale shark behaviour I've seen? Plenty of options, but I'm going with one I call happy munching. Trying another '1-Minute Whale Sharks' video clip here... 😂. . Note the second short vid too, as I couldn't work out how to add photos 🤷♂️. Any questions for next time?
Video by @simonjpierce. Moar sharkiness. Here's a whale shark feeding on shrimp within a Trichodesmium slick. Trichodesmium is a cyanobacterium that creates nitrogen. It smells like watermelon. Tricho can also be mildly toxic, but whale shark don't care.
Nooooooooommmmmmmmmm. This whale shark was high-speed surface-feeding on shrimps - you can actually see them freaking out and trying to escape in the full resolution file. The shrimp were hanging out underneath a slick of Trichodesmium cyanobacteria (the yellowish stuff on the surface). Dunno what the exact relationship is, but the bacterial mats are a shrimp magnet. The whale sharks are well aware of that, and 'ram feed' (i= nom) to their stomach's content. There are approximately eleventy billion shrimps present. Our rough calculations estimate that 10 mins of feeding cover a shark's energy needs for the whole day, and the sharks are feeding for about four hours(!), exhibiting a similar degree of self-control as me with lemon meringue pie.
Huh. I didn't expect that response to my post yesterday. To recap, I added a video of a whale shark feeding 'constellation'. I added what, to me, was a throwaway line that I won't be sharing the location until the site is set up to receive visitors. Some of you replied that I should NEVER share the site, as the sharks deserve to keep some secret areas where they can be sharky in peace. That's a really valid point of view - thanks for being so thoughtful towards the sharks! Poorly-managed whale shark tourism is awful to watch. Not only can the sharks get harassed and stressed, it puts them at increased risk of injuries from boat strikes and other activities. HOWEVER, well-managed tourism is one of the best tools we have to protect and conserve this globally endangered species. It has created millions of 'ambassadors' for whale sharks, as they're adorable and wonderful, and creates a powerful economic incentive to conserve them. Many of the countries that have protected whale sharks have cited the benefits of tourism as a justification. Talking specifically about the site in question, it's not a secret. It's difficult to access, and seasonal, so tourism hasn't happened yet. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean the sharks aren't being affected by people. They're being killed and maimed by ship strikes, their food source is at risk of overfishing, and the sharks themselves have no legal protection. The country's government is setting up best-practice tourism to allow limited and regulated access to the site. This is intended to help raise awareness of the sharks' presence, and to provide a sustainable financing mechanism for conservation activities, so they can fully protect the species in national waters. Hopefully that explains my views on the topic. Do I wish people were less transactional about conservation? Yes. The reason why I use this platform is to encourage everyone to appreciate the amazing animals we share this planet with. They have an intrinsic right to live, regardless of how useful they are (or aren't) to us. That said, as a conservation biologist, I deal with the world as it is, while working to make it better. Feel free to discuss... 🙂
Tropical waters are like a desert. Clear, blue, warm waters hold little food for a huge animal like a whale shark. They'll travel thousands of kilometres for a truly worthwhile meal. Here, you can see a huge aggregation of whale sharks that has gathered to feed on tuna eggs. Off Mexico, where a similar phenomenon occurs, each shark is estimated to be eating 142.5 kg of eggs every day, equivalent in calories to about 8 kg of milk chocolate! That event draws in sharks from all over the Atlantic. Crazy to think that, until the early 1980s, only 320 sightings of whale sharks had ever been documented. We've learnt a lot about the ecology of these amazing fish... except we still don't know where most of the babies, females or adults hang out 😳. Hopefully that's job security? 😉 Just as a note, I won't be providing a location for this video until the area has finished setting themselves up to handle tourism - won't be too long 🤗. Video by @simonjpierce.
Think whale sharks only feed on plankton? Prepare to have your mind blown 😉. Here are a couple of sharks (and a school of tuna) corralling baitfish - the green cloud - off the coast of Tanzania. Anything up to about 10 cm long is fair game for a whale shark. And who doesn't love anchovies? (20,000 people raise hands 😜). Video by @simonjpierce.
This video was taken in Galapagos National Park in an area where no shark fishing is allowed. This is what a healthy marine protected area can look like. People often ask me how I stay positive when there are so many marine conservation challenges out there. Sites like this show all of us what can be achieved when we work together to protect our ocean wilderness. Scalloped hammerhead sharks are shy around divers, so I used a GoPro as a remote camera to get close-up footage without disturbing them. Video by @simonjpierce.
African penguins were sometimes given the common name 'Jackass penguins' due to their braying call. Apparently it is considered rude to mention this.