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Abstract

As the world’s largest fish, whale sharks Rhincodon typus could be assumed to be predator-free. Juvenile whale sharks are known to be preyed upon by sharks, marlin and orcas, and, although unconfirmed, bite marks on a sub-adult whale shark were attributed to white sharks Carcharodon carcharias (Department of the Environment and Heritage, DEH 2005). Attacks on large whale sharks by other large sharks are reported, but the predator remains unidentified (Fitzpatrick et al. 2006). Here, we provide confirmation that white sharks feed on adult whale sharks. In the 1960s, a 4.5-m male white shark was caught at Cheynes Beach Whaling Station (near Albany, southwest Australia) by the Department of Fisheries. At that time, white sharks frequented this area and fed on dead whales that were tied up prior to processing for oil. The individual was dissected and two unidentified and damaged shark centra (vertebrae) were recovered from the stomach contents (Fig. 1). These centra have been held in the ichthyology collection of the Western Australian Museum (WAM) for the last 50+ years. The centra were recently re-examined and identified as belonging to a whale shark of at least 8.5 m in length (based on ~12-cm-diameter centra; Wintner 2000). Compared to other orectolobiform sharks, whale shark centra are less calcified, with an open intermedialia. The cartilages of these centra appear etched by stomach acid and distorted due to decalcification, desiccation and shrinkage. Whale sharks are generally tropical, occasionally appearing in more temperate waters, including Albany (DEH 2005). White sharks are most common in temperate Australia; however, they are known from tropical regions, including Ningaloo Reef, where sub-adult whale sharks congregate in the austral Autumn (Fitzpatrick et al. 2006). The diet of white sharks is dominated by smaller sharks, teleosts and mammals (Cortés 1999), and feeding on large cetaceans, either live or dead, is known (e.g. Dudley et al. 2000; Hussey et al. 2012) and regularly reported in the popular media. We cannot confirm whether the white shark preyed on a living whale shark or whether it scavenged on a dead carcass. We also cannot confirm whether the interaction was in tropical or temperate seas.
1 23
Marine Biodiversity
ISSN 1867-1616
Mar Biodiv
DOI 10.1007/s12526-015-0430-9
Whale shark on a white shark’s menu
G.I.Moore & M.G.Newbrey
1 23
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OCEANARIUM
Whale shark on a white sharksmenu
G. I. Moore
1
&M. G. Newbrey
2,3
Received: 19 August 2015 /Revised: 10 December 2015 /Accepted: 11 December 2015
#Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015
As the worlds largest fish, whale sharks Rhincodon typus
could be assumed to be predator-free. Juvenile whale sharks
are known to be preyed upon by sharks, marlin and orcas, and,
although unconfirmed, bite marks on a sub-adult whale shark
were attributed to white sharks Carcharodon carcharias
(Department of the Environment and Heritage, DEH 2005).
Attacks on large whale sharks by other large sharks are report-
ed, but the predator remains unidentified (Fitzpatrick et al.
2006). Here, we provide confirmation that white sharks feed
on adult whale sharks.
In the 1960s, a 4.5-m male white shark was caught at
Cheynes Beach Whaling Station (near Albany, southwest
Australia) by the Department of Fisheries. At that time, white
sharks frequented this area and fed on dead whales that were
tied up prior to processing for oil. The individual was dissect-
ed and two unidentified and damaged shark centra (vertebrae)
were recovered from the stomach contents (Fig. 1). These
centra have been held in the ichthyology collection of the
Western Australian Museum (WAM) for the last 50+ years.
The centra were recently re-examined and identified
as belonging to a whale shark of at least 8.5 m in length
(based on ~12-cm-diameter centra; Wintner 2000). Com-
pared to other orectolobiform sharks, whale shark centra
are less calcified, with an open intermedialia. The carti-
lages of these centra appear etched by stomach acid and
distorted due to decalcification, desiccation and
shrinkage.
Whale sharks are generally tropical, occasionally
appearing in more temperate waters, including Albany
(DEH 2005). White sharks are most common in temper-
ate Australia; however, they are known from tropical
regions, including Ningaloo Reef, where sub-adult
whale sharks congregate in the austral Autumn
(Fitzpatrick et al. 2006). The diet of white sharks is
dominated by smaller sharks, teleosts and mammals
(Cortés 1999), and feeding on large cetaceans, either
live or dead, is known (e.g. Dudley et al. 2000;
Hussey et al. 2012) and regularly reported in the popu-
lar media. We cannot confirm whether the white shark
preyed on a living whale shark or whether it scavenged
on a dead carcass. We also cannot confirm whether the
interaction was in tropical or temperate seas.
Communicated by: R. Thiel
*G. I. Moore
glenn.moore@museum.wa.gov.au
1
Department of Aquatic Zoology, Western Australian Museum, 49
Kew Street, Welshpool, WA 6986, Australia
2
Department of Biology, Columbus State University,
Columbus, GA 31907-5645, USA
3
Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre, 111 Gilmour Street,
Morden, Manitoba R6M 1N9, Canada
Mar Biodiv
DOI 10.1007/s12526-015-0430-9
Author's personal copy
References
Cortés E (1999) Standardized diet compositions and trophic levels of
sharks. ICES J Mar Sci 56:707717
Department of the Environment and Heritage (DEH) (2005) Whale Shark
(Rhincodon typus) Recovery Plan Issues Paper. Commonwealth of
Australia, Canberra
Dudley SFJ, Anderson-Reade MD, Thompson GS, McMullen PB (2000)
Concurrent scavenging off a whale carcass by great white sharks,
Carcharodon carcharias, and tiger sharks, Galeocerdo cuvier.Fish
Bull 98:646649
Fitzpatrick B, Meekan M, Richards A (2006) Shark attacks on a whale
shark (Rhincodon typus) at Ningaloo Reef, western Australia. Bull
Mar Sci 78:397402
Hussey NE, McCann HM, Cliff G, Dudley SFJ, Wintner SP, Fisk
AT (2012) Size-based analysis of diet and trophic position of
the white shark, Carcharodon carcharias, in South African
waters. In: Domeier ML (ed) Global perspectives on the bi-
ology and life history of the white shark. CRC Press, Boca
Raton, Florida, pp 2749
Wintner SP (2000) Preliminary study of vertebral growth rings in the
whale shark, Rhincodon typus, from the east coast of South Africa.
Env Biol Fishes 59:441451
Fig. 1 a Whale shark Rhincodon
typus.bWhite shark
Carcharodon carcharias.cTwo
whale shark centra from a white
shark stomach (Western
Australian Museum, WAM
accession P.29547-001)
Mar Biodiv
Author's personal copy
... Scarring from predator bites has decreased from 11% of individuals (Speed et al. 2008) to 4.8% of individuals in this current assessment. Despite their large size, whale sharks have a number of predators, including white sharks Carcharodon carcharias (Moore & Newbrey 2016), killer whales Orcinus orca (O'Sullivan & Mitchell 2000) and tiger sharks Galeocerdo cuvier (Dicken et al. 2017), all of which are present at Ningaloo. However, we were unable to attribute bites to specific predators, as all of the scars were healed and lacked the distinctive characteristics associated with fresh wounds, such as embedded teeth from large predatory sharks (Fitzpatrick et al. 2006) or teeth rake marks associated with killer whales (Naessig & Lanyon 2004). ...
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Whale shark (Rhincodon typus) tourism is increasingly popular at predictable aggregations around the world, but only a few use provisioning to ensure close interactions. Understanding the effects of provisioning on the behaviour of this endangered species is critical to manage this growing industry. We recorded the diving behaviour and habitat use of juvenile whale sharks (n = 4) for a mean of 49.5 provisioned and 33.8 non-provisioned days using temperature-depth-recorders. We found that time spent at the surface (< 2 m) between 6 am and 1 pm increased ~ sixfold, while timing of deep dives shifted from 4-10 am to 10 am-2 pm, i.e. near or at the end of the provisioning activities. The shift might be related to a need to thermoregulate following a prolonged period of time in warmer water. These changes could have fitness implications for individuals frequently visiting the provisioning site. Based on recorded amount of time spent in warm waters and published Q 10 values for ectotherms, we estimate a 7.2 ± 3.7% (range 1.3-17.8%) higher metabolic rate when sharks frequent the provisioning site. The observed behavioural, habitat use, and potential fitness shifts should be considered when developing guidelines for sustainable tourism, particularly in light of new provisioning sites developing elsewhere.
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Growth rings (GR) in vertebral centra of 15 whale sharks, Rhincodon typus, four female (418–750 cm precaudal length), 10 male (422–770 cm), and one of unknown sex (688 cm), were examined using x-radiography. GR counts were made from scanned images and count precision was determined using the average percentage error index (4.19%) and the index of precision D (3.31%). In females, counts ranged from 19 GR (418 cm) to 27 GR (750 cm); in males from 20 GR (670 cm) to 31 GR (770 cm). Three mature males had 20 GR (670 cm), 24 GR (744 cm) and 27 GR (755 cm). A female with 22 GR (445 cm) was adolescent. There was a linear relationship between centrum dorsal diameter and body length, and back-calculated body lengths at number of GR are presented. A linear relationship between body length and number of GR prevented the calculation of von Bertalanffy parameters from either observed or back-calculated values.
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Sharks are marine consumers believed to occupy top positions in marine food webs. But surprisingly, trophic level estimates for these predators are almost non-existent. With the hope of helping better define the ecological role of sharks in marine communities, this paper presents standardized diet compositions and trophic levels calculated for a suite of species. Dietary composition for each species was derived from published quantitative studies using a weighted average index that takes into account sample size in each study. The trophic level (TL) values of the 11 food types used to characterize the diet (obtained from published accounts) were then used to calculate fractional trophic levels for 149 species representing eight orders and 23 families. Sharks as a group are tertiary consumers (TL>4), and significant differences were found among the six orders compared, which were attributable to differences between orectolobiforms (TL<4) and all other orders, and between hexanchiforms and both carcharhiniforms and squatiniforms. Among four families of carcharhiniform sharks, carcharhinids (TL=4.1, n=39) had a significantly higher TL than triakids (TL=3.8, n=19) and scyliorhinids (TL=3.9, n=21), but not sphyrnids (TL=3.9, n=6). When compared to trophic levels for other top predators of marine communities obtained from the literature, mean TL for sharks was significantly higher than for seabirds (n=28), but not for marine mammals (n=97). Trophic level and body size were positively correlated (r s =0.33), with the fit increasing (r s =0.41) when the three predominantly zooplanktivorous sharks were omitted, and especially when considering only carcharhinid sharks (r s =0.55).
1 a Whale shark Rhincodon typus. b White shark Carcharodon carcharias. c Two whale shark centra from a white shark stomach (Western Australian Museum, WAM accession P.29547-001) Mar Biodiv Author's personal copy
  • Fig
Fig. 1 a Whale shark Rhincodon typus. b White shark Carcharodon carcharias. c Two whale shark centra from a white shark stomach (Western Australian Museum, WAM accession P.29547-001) Mar Biodiv Author's personal copy