Aggregations of juvenile whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) in the Gulf of Tadjoura, Djibouti

Abstract

A total of 23 whale sharks were identified over a 5 d period in the Arta Bay region of the Gulf of Tadjora, Djibouti. Most of the sharks aggregating in this area were small (<4 m TL) males. Individuals were identified using photographs of distinctive scars and spot and stripe patterns on the sides of the animals. Of these, 65% had scarring that was attributable to boat or propeller strikes. Most of the whale sharks we encountered were feeding on dense accumulations of plankton in shallow water just off (10–200 m) the shoreline. This food source may account for the aggregation of sharks in this area. One 3 m male shark was tagged with an ARGOS (Splash) satellite tag for 9 d. During this time the shark traversed to the shoreline on the opposite side of the Gulf (a distance of 14 km) and then returned to the Arta Bay area before retracing his path to the other shore. The shark spent most of the daylight hours at the surface, while at night dives were more frequent, deeper and for longer durations.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the Marine Conservation Society Djibouti and their principle partner ‘Megaptera’ for the invitation to visit and participate in this research programme. The costs of the programme were sponsored largely by the Cooperation Service of the French Embassy in Djibouti (SCAC), by local tour operator Dolphin Excursions Sarl, and by the Fondation Nature & Decouvertes. Our thanks also to the Ministry of Environment, Djibouti, for their support and permission to undertake this research, to the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles for technical support. We would also acknowledge the valuable comments of two anonymous reviewers.

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Rowat, D., Meekan, M.G., Engelhardt, U. et al. Aggregations of juvenile whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) in the Gulf of Tadjoura, Djibouti. Environ Biol Fish 80, 465–472 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-006-9148-7

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Keywords

  • Whale shark
  • Rhincodon typus
  • Aggregation
  • Feeding