Chumphon – Tourists diving in the sea off this southern province’s Koh Ngam Noi island ran into a whale shark which is an annual visitor to these waters during diving season, Thai News Agency said today (March 23).
The whale shark came close to the tourists diving to view coral gardens, rock piles and caves just 20 kilometers from the beach with this being this province’s best diving site.
These photos were taken by Miss Wanthana Paramakul who was also diving there at the time and had taken her camera along and is keeping them as mementos and also shared them with her friends.
People in this province know this whale shark as it pays a visit during March and April every year and have also been using its image as a logo for the start of the diving season for many year now.
According to Nature.org, contrary to its name, the whale shark is not a whale; it is, rather, the world’s largest fish, growing as long as 60 feet.
It is widely distributed, found worldwide in tropical and warm temperate seas, except the Mediterranean. As it swims, it sucks water through its gargantuan mouth, as wide as five feet, then filters out plankton and other microscopic organisms through its gills. It is an extremely patient feeder.
Individuals have been observed waiting as long as 14 hours for fish to spawn on reefs in order to eat the eggs. Whale sharks migrate long distances according to food availability and water temperature. One specimen was tracked 8,000 miles across the Pacific.
Thought to have evolved 200 million years ago, one might think that humans would have had ample time to study the species, but its life history remains poorly understood, partially because it is both rare and migratory.
Jacques Cousteau is reported to have observed only two whale sharks in his life. Scientists do know that the species gives birth to live young, unlike most fish, the eggs hatching in the mother’s body.
Litters number up to 300 pups, but survival rates are thought to be low. If they do survive, they may live as long as 100-150 years, reaching sexual maturity around 25 years.
Top: Images of the whale shark taken by Miss Wanthana Paramakul. Photo: Thai News Agency
Inset: Tourists diving in the sea near Chumphon’s Koh Ngam Noi island. Photo: Thai News Agency