Predation of baitfishes associated with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef

Christine Barry, Adrian C. Gleiss, Luciana C. Ferreira, Michele Thums, Randall W. Davis, Lee A. Fuiman, Naomi R. Roche, Mark G. Meekan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Baitfishes may aggregate around megafauna such as whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) to gain protection from larger predatory fishes. Here, we used videos from deployments of animal-borne cameras on whale sharks and provided by tourism operators at Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia to document large schools of trevally (Carangidae spp.) consuming entire schools of baitfishes (Carangidae spp.) swimming with whale sharks within 2–45 s. These videos showed that small baitfishes are still very vulnerable to predatory fishes when accompanying whale sharks, refuting the hypothesis that whale sharks provide baitfishes shelter from predators. It thus seems more likely that the association between whale sharks and baitfishes may confer other advantages such as reduced costs of locomotion and/or enhanced feeding opportunities for baitfishes rather than protection from predation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number140
JournalMarine Biology
Volume170
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

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