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Trial to shed light on elusive whale shark

Pilbara News
VideoScientists have tagged and taken DNA from the whale sharks in effort to find out about where they go and how long they live for.

A world-first trial to determine the age of whale sharks using DNA samples has begun on the Ningaloo Reef.

CSIRO scientists collected samples from several whale sharks this month and will use them to determine age, where they travel and how deep they dive. Senior scientist Richard Pillans said whale shark behaviour had remained elusive to date.

“Taking genetic samples from whale sharks will provide a critical piece of data on their age to help us estimate the population on the western coast of Australia and the eastern Indian Ocean,” he said.

“Previous tagging has revealed whale sharks travelling south to Perth and others have been located as far as the Gulf of Carpentaria, 3500km away.

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“We have also discovered a whale shark travelling as deep as 1.8km.”

The research has been undertaken as part of the five-year, $5.4 million Ningaloo Outlook program.

BHP Petroleum Australia general manager Graham Salmond said the program provided insight into how best to manage the Ningaloo Reef.

“We engage heavily with the broader community to promote this complex ecosystem including the local school and the Australian public who can track marine life online,” he said.

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