A Whopper of a Whale Shark
Scientists studying the elusive whale shark have discovered that it could potentially be larger than previously thought.
The whale shark is the largest fish in the world, and it was previously believed that they grew only up to an enormous 20 metres in length.
However, Scientists from the University of Queensland in Australia who are researching these gentle yet elusive aquatic giants have discovered a new way of accurately measuring this fish. By using a camera that is complete with mounted lasers, they were able to take the most accurate measurements of the whale shark to date. According to researchers, it looks that they could be up to 50 cm larger than previously estimated.
Before the advancement of this kind of technology, previous methods of estimating the size of whale sharks were based on a method called photogrammetery. These measurements are estimated from simple visual assessments or from photographs that were taken without the assistance of lasers.
By using the lasers which are positioned 50 cm apart on either side of the camera, it means that the distance projected by these points make it easier to analyse photographs taken with greater accuracy.
Christoph Rohner who is a Ph.D. student told the BBC that the laser system would allow researchers to obtain reliable and accurate measurements from free-swimming sharks, so they may as well find out what the actual size of whale sharks actually are.
Despite it name, this animal is not a whale. However, not much is actually known about this mysterious fish.
It is hoped that the new precision in underwater photography can assist researchers in establishing how long whale sharks live, in turn allowing them to learn more about their development so that they can preserve this species. Whale sharks are sadly a threatened species and are at risk from accidental capture and commercial fishing.