Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 96, Issue 6, pp 779–795 | Cite as

Segregation and foraging ecology of whale sharks, Rhincodon typus, in the southwestern Gulf of California

  • James T. KetchumEmail author
  • Felipe Galván-Magaña
  • A. Peter Klimley


Sharks segregate by sex and size, but few studies have attempted to explain such behaviors. To address this, we examined aggregations and the foraging ecology of whale sharks in Bahía de La Paz (BLP) with aerial and ship surveys and direct observation. Zooplankton abundance and composition, and hydrographic conditions were analyzed in relation to whale shark occurrence to explore underlying factors causing segregations. We observed large aggregations of juveniles (<9 m total length, TL) inshore, comprised by 60 % male individuals, and small aggregations of adults (>9 m TL) offshore, composed of 84 % females. Juvenile sharks were associated to turbid shallow waters in BLP, where they performed stationary and dynamic suction feeding on dense copepod swarms. Adults occurred in oceanic waters and fed by ram-filtering on diffuse patches of euphausiids, with no association to oceanographic conditions. Such segregation may be advantageous to juvenile R. typus utilizing shallow coastal waters to find abundant preferred prey needed for their fast growth rates. Our studies suggest that the main driving forces of whale shark segregation by sex and size in BLP may be diet preference for juveniles and habitat preference for adult sharks.


Aggregations Zooplankton Salinity Temperature Bahía de La Paz 



We thank M. Hoyos, D. Ramírez, A. Soria, A. Hacohen, A. Cabrera, and K. Busto for their assistance in the field. T. Means, J. Lozano and crew of the Don Jose/Baja Expeditions for their invaluable help in fieldwork; and S. Lanham for providing the aerial surveys. We are grateful to E. Clark, D. Gendron, R. Palomares, A. Trasviña for their critical revisions. We also thank R. Lozano for facilitating her database. Thanks to K. Busto for editing maps and figures. Special thanks to two anonymous reviewers for their constructive and helpful suggestions. This work was supported by CONACYT and PIFI-IPN fellowships granted to JTK, and Instituto Politécnico Nacional fellowships (COFAA, EDI) granted to FGM. PADI/Project Aware provided financial support for fieldwork. This work was carried out under permits by the Area de Protección de Flora y Fauna, Islas del Golfo de California-CONANP.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • James T. Ketchum
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Felipe Galván-Magaña
    • 1
  • A. Peter Klimley
    • 2
  1. 1.Departamento de Biología Marina y PesqueríasCentro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas (CICIMAR)La PazMexico
  2. 2.Department of Wildlife, Fish, & Conservation BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA

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