Science & Technology

Whale shark is the world’s largest omnivore, study finds

Sydney, Australia, Jul 25 (EFE).- The whale shark (Rhincodon typus), which can measure up to 18 meters (around 60 feet) in length, is the largest omnivore on the planet, according to a study on the eating habits of this marine species.

Researchers at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) determined that the whale shark, also considered the world’s largest fish, feeds on Sargassum, a type of brown algae common in northwest Australia, AIMS said in a statement Monday.

Previous scientific studies pointed to the whale shark feeding mainly on krill through filtration, a mechanism by which it absorbs the water around it and all that is nearby, and expel the water later by the gills and digest the living organisms.

The study was conducted by comparing the skin samples taken from whale sharks and the amino acids and fatty acids from plankton and plant material present in the samples of potential foods they collected.

The researchers found that the whale shark tissues had remnants of Sargassum, an algae that breaks off from the reefs and floats in the waters of Ningaloo Reef off the coast of the state of Western Australia.

Mark Meekan, lead author of this study, believes that in its evolutionary process, the whale shark developed the ability to digest Sargassum that it caught in by-catch food.

“Something like a whale shark, which swims through the water with its mouth open, is going to ingest a lot of different things,” he said.

Meekan, whose research was published last week in the scientific journal Ecology, noted that this find changes the thinking about differences in the diets of giant shrimp and fish-based marine animals and larger terrestrial animals, which are generally herbivores. EFE


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