Fine-Scale Movements and Behaviors of Whale Sharks, Rhincodon typus, in a Seasonal Aggregation near Al Lith, Saudi Arabia
AdvisorsBerumen, Michael L.
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AbstractMovement and behavior studies are traditional yet effective ways to understand the biology and ecology of a species. For an endangered species like the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), a comprehensive knowledge of its movement and behavior is particularly critical for successful management and conservation. For this dissertation, acoustic telemetry and biologging tagging studies were carried out at a seasonal whale shark aggregation site near Al Lith in the Saudi Arabian Red Sea. Acoustic telemetry data revealed consistent path usage in a narrow longshore area with patterns in seasonality and diel horizontal movements within a smaller scale. Some individuals specifically concentrated on this path and made non-stop back and forth movements along it. In another dimension, depth use of whale sharks derived from biologgers showed distinct diel patterns. The sharks heavily utilized shallow waters with mixed depth usage consisting of surface swimming and varied types of dives, which explained the data of previous visual surveys. Vertical velocities indicated potential energy expenditure strategies that were further investigated based on acceleration data. Energy expenditure data suggested strategies that fine-tuned foraging efforts to optimize the balance between feeding and foraging. However, while these strategies fit well in the natural habitat, local human impacts could be of great disturbance if not well managed.