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Fact: Whale sharks — the largest known fish in the sea and some of the largest creatures on Earth — exist. That means they must be reproducing.
Now, thanks to a fortuitous flyby in Wwestern Australia, biologists are one step closer to learning how whale sharks make the proverbial beast with two humpbacks. While flying over Australia's Ningaloo Reef in mid-June, commercial tour pilot Tiffany Klein spotted an adult male whale shark trying to catch a juvenile female's attention by zigzagging through the sea for more than an hour — and then, unsuccessfully, trying to mate with her.
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Klein - Whale - Researchers - Commonwealth - Scientific
Klein pointed out the frisky whale to nearby researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia's federal science agency. CSIRO researchers observed the encounter from sea while Klein photographed from above, effectively providing the world's first record of whale shark mating behavior.
"Whether he was successful or not, this is the first time we've seen an attempted copulation by a male whale shark with a female," George Burgess, director emeritus of the Florida Program for Shark Research, told Live Science. (Burgess did not witness the recent sighting.) "We still don't know what the mating behavior of a mature female would be, but it's one step forward in our understanding of whale shark reproductive biology."
Hour - Whale - Shark - Female - Attention
For nearly an hour before attempting to mate, this male whale shark (back) tried to get a female's attention by zig-zagging around the water and diving unpredictably. According to whale shark researcher George Burgess, the shark was "hot to trot."
Burgess said scientists can take a few key lessons from the attempted mating, beginning with the male shark's capricious behavior beforehand.
Interview - Broadcasting - Corporation - Klein - CSIRO
In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Klein and the CSIRO researchers described the male's behavior as...
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