Acoustic telemetry reveals cryptic residency of whale sharks

Edgar F. Cagua, Jesse Cochran, Christoph A. Rohner, Clare E M Prebble, Tane Sinclair-Taylor, Simon J. Pierce, Michael L. Berumen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Althoughwhale sharks (Rhincodon typus) have beendocumentedtomove thousands of kilometres, they are most frequently observed at a few predictable seasonal aggregation sites. The absence of sharks at the surface during visual surveys has led to the assumption that sharks disperse to places unknown during the long 'off-seasons' at most of these locations. Here we compare 2 years of R. typus visual sighting records from Mafia Island in Tanzania to concurrent acoustic telemetry of tagged individuals. Sightings revealed a clear seasonal pattern with a peak between October and February and no sharks observed at other times. By contrast, acoustic telemetry demonstrated yearround residency of R. typus. The sharks use a different habitat in the offseason, swimming deeper and further away from shore, presumably in response to prey distributions. This behavioural change reduces the sharks' visibility, giving the false impression that they have left the area.We demonstrate, for the first timeto our knowledge, year-roundresidencyofunprovisioned, individual R. typus at an aggregation site, and highlight the importance of using multiple techniques to study the movement ecology of marine megafauna. © 2015 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20150092
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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