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Whale shark mating photographed for the first time

During a flight over Australia’s Ningaloo Reef, Tiffany Klein was exceptionally lucky to capture unique images of whale sharks mating. This is the first time a human has managed to capture this extraordinary moment. Flying over the reef in search of these gentle giants, Klein spotted a 9m long male chasing a female. According to
Published: July 29, 2019 - 18:35
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 18:28
Whale shark mating photographed for the first time

During a flight over Australia’s Ningaloo Reef, Tiffany Klein was exceptionally lucky to capture unique images of whale sharks mating. This is the first time a human has managed to capture this extraordinary moment.

Flying over the reef in search of these gentle giants, Klein spotted a 9m long male chasing a female. According to the female’s description, the male was behaving quite chaotically. He was zigzagging and swimming in circles quite fast. I directed the CSIRO boat to have a look at him, but the shark swam up to another, smaller female and simply swam under her in an attempt to fertilise her. This was the first time such behaviour had been observed, and to top it all off we managed to capture it in photographs!

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“He was turning, twisting and diving. He was swimming much faster than normal. And then we saw him catch up with a female, well, we assume it was a female, but nobody was in the water at the time. Then there was a big whirlpool and the male basically turned upside down,” said Dr Richard Pillans, CSIRO scientist

“As you can see from the aerial photos, he was completely upside down, his reproductive organs are dilated and he is trying to mate with the female. Unfortunately for him, the female was not mature. She was too small to be fully mature, so his attempts were unsuccessful, but the fact that this behaviour is happening is extremely significant.”

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Observing such behaviour in whale sharks will most likely prompt further research. Could Ningaloo Reef be a mating ground for these sharks? Although this is such a well-known species, unfortunately we still know very little about them.

Whale sharks are the largest species of shark. Adults can reach a length of 9 metres (and sometimes more) and weigh over 20 tonnes. They can be found in all tropical waters, as these animals prefer high temperatures. Although whale sharks are true giants, they pose no threat to humans as they feed on plankton and small crustaceans and fish.

Source: oceanforsharks.com

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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