Scottish Oceans Institute: Current seminars

29 Jun 2017
1:00 PM

Gigantothermy in whale sharks – behavioural strategies to maintain constant body temperatures while accessing prey in the deep, cool waters of the tropical ocean
Mark Meekan
Australian Institute of Marine Scince

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Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) are a warm-adapted species that feeds on dense aggregations of prey in the deep scattering layer (300-500 m depths) during the day. Feeding using the gill in this deep, cold water has the potential to cool the body of a whale shark very quickly. We developed a model of heat loss and gain across the gill as a means of understanding and predicting patterns of vertical movement in this species. Using data from a recovered Splash tag, we show how whale sharks maintain stable and high (23-25oC) body temperatures, despite the need to feed in deep water, through a range of behaviours that include basking both before and after diving. This heat is stored by a body plan adapted for gigantothermy. The strategy invoked by whale sharks provides insights into the evolution of filter-feeding in large marine vertebrates over the last 150 million years.

host: Prof Andrew Brierley

refID: 1916

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