Whale sharks

Whale Sharks and Ningaloo

Ningaloo is a globally-important location for whale sharks (Rhincodon typus), the world’s biggest fish. The reef hosts one of the worlds largest known aggregations of whale shark which occurs between March and August year.

Whale shark (Rhincodon typus), the largest known fish, can grow up to 14 metres and weigh up to 12 tonnes (Image courtesy of Dr. Richard Pillans).

Since 2015 Dr. Richard Pillans has been leading research on Whale Sharks for the Ningaloo Outlook partnership to improve our knowledge of this wide-ranging species. During the first phase of Ningaloo Outlook (2015-2020) forty-six Whale Sharks were tagged with satellite tags. These tags were used to track their movements of individual whale sharks to enable scientists to better understand where the animal travelled to, and also uncovered some rather interesting data on diving patterns. Read more about what researchers found by clicking here or reading our Ningaloo Outlook Highlight Report.

The new phase of the Ningaloo Outlook project (2020-2025) aims to help address a global knowledge gap by estimating adult population abundance using tissue samples collected from whale sharks at Ningaloo. These samples will be collected during the annual aggregation and will be used to estimate the adult population size found in the eastern Indian Ocean using state-of-the-art Close Kin Mark-Recapture (CKMR) genetic-based methods. The team will also look to determine the extent of connectivity between Ningaloo and aggregations in the Indian and Pacific Ocean.

Future Scientists

A key part of the Ningaloo Outlook Partnership is to create opportunities to train the next generation of scientists. We hope to provide our students with opportunities that will set them apart. A PhD top-up scholarship is currently being established for research relating to our Whale Shark theme. Further updates will be provided as we progress this exciting opportunity.