Whale sharks are the largest of all fishes, fascinating for comparative studies of all manner of biological fields, including functional anatomy, growth, metabolism, movement ecology, behavior and physiology. These gentle ocean giants have captured the interest of scientists and the imagination of the public, yet their future is uncertain. The conservation status of whale sharks was upgraded to Endangered on the IUCN Red List and the species faces a range of intense threats from human activities. Can these iconic living animals, who have survived for millions of years, survive us?
Written by the world’s leading experts in whale shark biology, ecology, and conservation, Whale Sharks: Biology, Ecology and Conservation is the first definitive volume about the world's biggest fish. Chapters include discussions of satellite-linked tags, used to track whale shark movements; genetic sequencing, to examine evolutionary adaptations; even the use of underwater ultrasound units to investigate the species’ reproduction. The editors hope that by collating what is known, they can make it easier for future researchers, conservationists, and resource managers to fill some of the remaining knowledge gaps, and provide the information they need to join the team.
As you work your way through this book, we hope that you will develop a sense of awe and marvel at all of our good fortune to share the ocean, and the planet, with this utterly extraordinary species.
Table of Contents
Introduction. 1. How and why is the whale shark the world’s largest fish? 2. Whale shark reproduction, growth, and demography 3. Whale shark sensory biology and neuroanatomy 4. Parasites and other associates of whale sharks 5. Population genetic structure of whale sharks 6. Whale shark movements and migrations 7. Population ecology of whale sharks 8. Whale shark foraging, feeding, and diet 9. Lessons from care of whale sharks in public aquariums 10. Whale shark tourism as an incentive-based conservation approach 11. Global threats to whale sharks 12. Conservation of whale sharks 13. Outstanding questions in whale shark research and conservation.
Alistair D.M. Dove Ph.D. is a broadly trained marine biologist and currently Vice President of Science and Education at Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, USA, where he oversees international research programs on whale sharks, manta rays, coral reefs, sharks and dolphins. Alistair graduated from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia with a B.Sc. Honours first class in 1995 and a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Parasitology in 1999, for which he was awarded a University Medal and Dean’s List commendation. His early research focus was on parasites and diseases in freshwater and marine environments, but after a period studying diseases of lobsters, he began focusing on the biology and ecology of whale sharks after moving to Georgia Aquarium in 2006.
Simon J. Pierce Ph.D. is a co-founder and Principal Scientist at the Marine Megafauna Foundation, where he leads the global whale shark research and conservation program. Simon is also a Co-Chair for the Sub-Equatorial Africa region within the IUCN Shark Specialist Group, a Science Advisor to the Wildbook for Whale Sharks global database, and a founding board member of the Sawfish Conservation Society. Simon holds a BSc in Ecology from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, and a BSc (Hons, 1st Class) and doctoral degree in marine biology from The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. Simon began working with whale sharks in Mozambique in 2005, and now leads or collaborates on conservation biology and population ecology research programs across the world.
One of life’s greatest joys is being eye-to-eye with the world’s largest fish – the awe inspiring and ever mysterious whale shark. In this comprehensive and extensively referenced volume, Dove and Pierce have brought together the world’s leading scientists to review this shark’s fascinating biology and its elusive ecology. More than a collection of scientific facts, it is roadmap for the conservation actions needed to ensure humanity continues to benefit from this "utterly extraordinary species". Whether you are an inquisitive citizen scientist or a trained expert, you will find awe aplenty within its pages.
-- Dr. George Leonard. Chief Scientist, Ocean Conservancy
Al Dove and Simon Pierce showcase the magnificent whale shark like never before! Within the pages of Whale Sharks: Biology, Ecology, and Conservation this enigmatic creature is revealed scientifically with an easy-to-understand style. Of special interest is the attention given to the range of threats facing whale sharks and the vital need for conservation. Open the pages of this book and be transported into the mysterious world of whale sharks!
-- Brian Skerry, award-winning Photographer at National Geographic Magazine and Fellow at National Geographic Society
The largest and arguably one of the most magnificent fish in the sea finally gets the attention it deserves in this volume dedicated to these gentle giants. Whale Sharks have previously been relegated to passing mentions in many treatments of shark biology. While many important volumes have been published on the more charismatic Great White Shark, Whale Sharks have been largely neglected. Studies of these large ocean travelers are difficult, compounded by their large size and often rare appearances. Few have been maintained in captive facilities, though data from these few are beginning to reveal secrets of their biology that may aid in protecting their fragile biology. At long last, Dr. Al Dove and Dr. Simon Pierce have assembled a collection of papers from foremost experts who study these ocean wanderers, and together they provide insight into important facets of their biology. The authors’ particular insights suggest strategies aimed at protecting these sharks through wise management practices and conservation efforts. This volume belongs on the shelf of every ichthyologist and every scientist concerned for the fate of the oceans’ largest fish.
-- Jeffrey C. Carrier, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Biology, Albion College, Senior Editor, The Biology of Sharks and Their Relatives series