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Whale sharks are not carnivores but love vegan meals

Worlds biggest shark isn’t a carnivore but loves vegan meals!

"This causes us to rethink everything we thought we knew about what whale sharks eat"

WHALE sharks love a vegan meal as boffins discover they are the world’s largest omnivore. 

Marine scientists have discovered that the humongous fish eat plants.

They have now topped Kodiak Bears for the iconic position.

Whale sharks are filter feeders and are known for munching on mammoth amounts of krill.

But when boffins analysed biopsy samples from whale sharks, they discovered the animals loved their greens.

Fish biologist Dr Mark Meekan said: “This causes us to rethink everything we thought we knew about what whale sharks eat.

“And, in fact, what they’re doing out in the open ocean.

Whale sharks Vegan
Dr Mark Meekan of The Australian Institute of Marine Science

“On land, all the biggest animals have always been herbivores.

“In the sea we always thought the animals that have gotten really big, like whales and whale sharks, were feeding one step up the food chain on shrimp-like animals and small fishes. 

“Turns out that maybe the system of evolution on land and in the water isn’t that different after all.” 

The largest ever whale shark was recorded to be 18.8 metres long.

 

The research was conducted by the Australian Institute of Marine Science on whale sharks swimming around Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef.

To find out exactly what they were feasting on, the researchers collected samples of possible food sources at the reef, from tiny plankton to large seaweed.

They then compared the amino acids and fatty acids in the plankton and plant material to those in the whale sharks. 

Dr Meekan said the whale shark tissue contained compounds found in Sargassum.

It is a type of brown seaweed common at Ningaloo, which breaks off the reef and floats at the surface. 

He noted: “We think that over evolutionary time, whale sharks have evolved the ability to digest some of this Sargassum that’s going into their guts.

“So, the vision we have of whale sharks coming to Ningaloo just to feast on these little krill is only half the story. 

“They’re actually out there eating a fair amount of algae too.” 

The researchers also caught whale shark poo with a net and analysed it. 

The sample found they were eating krill but not metabolising much of it. 

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