Whale shark beached at Surathkal died due to isolation, starvation, external injury: College of Fisheries

The postmortem of the whale shark being done in Mangaluru.  

The whale shark — an endangered species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 — that beached at Surathkal on Saturday, died due to isolation, deprivation of food and injury caused by rocks in the coastal waters, a team of scientists from the College of Fisheries, Mangaluru, has concluded.

Its autopsy was done at the Fish Processing Department of the college at Hoige Bazaar after Forest Department officials transported it on Saturday, said A. Senthil Vel, Professor and Dean, College of Fisheries.

Mr. Vel said in a release on Monday, “The animal had strayed from its migratory route and hence had been isolated. It was starving owing to acute deprivation of food. This would have prompted it to gulp large amounts of sand. The strong currents and waves in the shallow waters due to monsoon conditions washed the animal ashore. It was injured when it hit the boulders and rocky formation along the Surathkal coast.”


He said that its gut content primarily consisted of a large amount of sand and shells. From the texture of the sand, it is possible that the animal gulped the sand from the water along the shores of Surathkal. The stomach was almost empty and contained a little amount of some semi-digested matter which has been taken for further studies. All its other organs — liver, pancreas, heart, gills and gall bladder etc. — were weighed, measured for length, and stored in refrigerated conditions for further studies. No internal injuries were found. It was a male.

The animal was 5.9 m long and weighed about 1.2 tonnes. Its age is likely between five to six years.

“The body of the animal, which has been cut into various sizes, is stored in a refrigerated condition for further studies in the technology wing of the college,” Mr. Vel said. The team that conducted the autopsy comprised of Mr. Vel, H.N. Anjanayappa, Shivakumar M., S.R. Somashekara, C.V. Raju, S.K. Girisha, Ganesh Prasad and some Ph.D. and PG students.

It said that the whale shark is gigantic but harmless. It is not an efficient swimmer since the entire body is used for swimming, which is unusual for fish and contributes to an average speed of only around 5km/hour. It is usually solitary. These animals are found mainly in the open sea, but sometimes come near the shore. Whale sharks live in warm water (near the equator) both along the coast and in the open seas. They spend most of their time near the surface.

The whale shark body is mostly grey with a white belly. Three prominent ridges run along each side of the animal, with the lower ridges extending into strong caudal keels near the tail, Mr. Vel said.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 10:06:32 AM |

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