Juvenile whale shark washed ashore

P. Oppili

CHENNAI: A juvenile whale shark about 15 feet long was found washed ashore at Pudhupattinam village, near Kalpakkam, on Wednesday.

It was in a decomposed state, but there were no signs of any physical injury, said Supraja Dharini, Chairperson of TREE Foundation, who performed a characteristic study of identification and reasons for death on the carcass. It would be buried by the Forest Department, she added.

Whale shark is the largest fish. A total of 1,974 whale sharks have been found in the Indian waters so far, with an overwhelming majority, of 94.6 per cent, in Gujarat.

Most of the whale shark landings in Gujarat were by directed fishing, whereas the landings were incidental in rest of the States, including Tamil Nadu, she said.

There appears to be a seasonal migration along the coastal waters, from the south towards the north along the west coast and from the north towards the south along the east coast of the country. Female whale sharks are larger than the males.

The whale sharks are harmless. Their body is mostly grey with a white belly, three prominent ridges run along each side of the fish and the skin is marked with a “checkerboard” of pale yellow spots and stripes.

The spots are unique to each individual and are useful for counting populations, Dr.Dharini said.

This is the third whale to be stranded on the coast in Kancheepuram district in the last 40 days and seventh on the Tamil Nadu coast, said the Forest officials.

The volunteers of TREE Foundation collected blubber sample, which would help in analysing toxic levels and the skin sample would be used for recording the DNA for genetic analysis, she added.

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