Planet Earth

Whale Shark Poops on Camera; Scientists Rejoice

DiscoblogBy Nina BaiNov 18, 2008 1:04 AM

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You 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

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