Whale sharks average at about 32 feet long and weigh tens of thousands of pounds. Despite this, scientists have no record of their sexual encounters due to several reasons. One of them is partly because these marine animals are endangered. Also, scientists haven’t located the special whale shark mating grounds.
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Recently, commercial tour pilot Tiffany Pilot captured the first known observation of a whale shark mating ritual. Klein was flying over Ningaloo Reef, Australia when she spotted an adult male shark trying to catch the attention of a female whale shark. It had been zigzagging through the sea for more than an hour. Unfortunately, the mating wasn’t successful. Klein forwarded her discovery to researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).
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According to Live Science, a science news website that features groundbreaking developments in science and the world, Klein and the researchers described the male's behavior as "erratic.” This is because it made sudden dives, much deeper than how adult males normally dive. George Burgess, director emeritus of the Florida Program for Shark Research, stated that this is known as ‘peacocking behavior’ where male animals get a female's attention and show off their viability.
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There are a few reasons why the mating didn’t occur, according to Burgess. First, the young female whale shark was feeding and didn't even notice the male. Also, the female was still young, while the male shark was fully grown. According to Forbes, a global media company focusing on business, CSIRO research scientist Dr. Richard Pillans said, "Unfortunately for him the female wasn't mature, she was too small to be a mature female, so his attempts were brushed aside but nevertheless the fact that that behaviour is taking place is extremely important." The male did this due to simple desperation.
"Whether he was successful or not, this is the first time we've seen an attempted copulation by a male whale shark with a female. We still don't know what the mating behavior of a mature female would be, but it's one step forward in our understanding of whale shark reproductive biology,” he added.