The smallest whale sharkever found has been rescued from a hawker in the Philippines, bringing new information on the breeding habits of the biggest fish in the sea.
Scientistsare thrilled by the discovery of the 38cm baby whale shark – thetiniest living example of a species that typically grows to 9-14 metresand weighs 12 to 15 tonnes.
It was found with arope tied around its tail, secured to a stick poked in the sand in acoastal town near Donsol in Sorsogon province.
Environment group WWF said a hawker was allegedly trying to sell thefish in an area that sees the world’s largest known annual gathering ofwhale sharks.
After checking to see the baby whale shark wasunhurt, WWF, police and government officials measured and photographedit before releasing it in deeper water.
The find is verysignificant for scientists, who know little about where the biggestfish in the ocean goes to give birth to its live young.
Until now it was thought the Philippines was simply a stop-off point for the rare species.
ButWWF-Philippines chief executive Jose Ma Lorenzo Tan says the tiny sizeof the whale shark caught on Friday strongly suggests it was born there. Scientists are now suggesting that Donsol may actually be a birthing sight for whale sharks as opposed to a stop-over.
The biggest whale shark ever recorded was caught on November 11, 1997, near the island of Baba, not far from Karachi, Pakistan.
While only 12.65 metres in length, it weighed more than 21.5 tonnes and had a girth of seven metres.
But very few have been found between birth size and four metres.