Thursday, April 25, 2024
HomeOceanWho Needs GPS? Whale Shark Shows Incredible Navigation Skills

Who Needs GPS? Whale Shark Shows Incredible Navigation Skills

When it comes to finding one’s way, Garmin, Tom-Tom and Google Maps have got nothing on Mother Nature.

As part of ongoing research into the marine ecosystem, researchers from Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Guy Harvey Research Institute are studying various shark species, including the largest fish in the sea: the whale shark.

They are studying many aspects of shark life — from migratory patterns to their genomes, all with the goal of having the data used to protect these animals for generations to come.

Mahmood Shivji, Ph.D., the director of NSU’s Guy Harvey Research Institute, says:

“The more we learn about these animals, their growth dynamics, where they go, what areas may be their nurseries, it can lead to a better understanding of their life history, which is imperative to guide conservation efforts.”

Shivji points to one tagged whale shark — Rio Lady — who in the time she’s been tagged (approximately 10 months) has shown incredible migratory ability, making extensive, round-trip journeys. Notably, Rio Lady has made long forays into the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, only to return to nearly the same spot where researchers first met her (she’s currently approaching her tagging site for the third time).

Another whale shark, Milo, has been tracked 351 days and counting, making it the longest duration, continuous track for a whale shark in the Atlantic.

Whale sharks are endangered as they are harvested in many countries for their fins, oils, meat, and other items, and sometimes also victims of ship strikes during their migrations. That’s why the research on this species is so vital — learning as much as possible on migratory patterns and more can help lawmakers enact legislation to protect these majestic creatures.

Anyone interested in following the trek of Rio Lady, Milo, or any of the dozens of other sharks NSU GHRI researchers have tagged, can log on to and choose which shark’s path to follow.

John Liang
John Liang
John Liang is the News Editor at He first got the diving bug while in High School in Cairo, Egypt, where he earned his PADI Open Water Diver certification in the Red Sea off the Sinai Peninsula. Since then, John has dived in a volcanic lake in Guatemala, among white-tipped sharks off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and other places including a pool in Las Vegas helping to break the world record for the largest underwater press conference.


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