World's Biggest Sharks Find a New Home

Whale sharks move near Azore Islands, likely due to climate change

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 20, 2014 11:51 AM CDT

(Newser) – Those hoping to avoid the world's biggest sharks would do well to stay away from Portugal's Azore Islands. That's where whale sharks—the biggest fish in the sea—are making a new home, likely due to climate change, a study finds. The creatures have a very specific set of temperatures they can tolerate, ranging from 78.8 degrees to 86 degrees Fahrenheit, Discovery notes. The Azores are currently fulfilling the needs of the animals, which, LiveScience notes, can be up to 41.5 feet long and weigh a whopping 47,000 pounds.

The temperatures around the Azores, off western Europe, appear to be linked to higher amounts of a favorite whale shark food: chlorophyll-a. Researchers in the area came to their shark population conclusions by assessing 16 years of data from tuna fishermen who've spotted the animals. Indeed, so many sharks have headed there that the region, previously in the northernmost part of the sharks' territory, is experiencing a boom in tourists' "whale shark watching." These tourists, it seems, needn't fear: Whale sharks are by no means ferocious, LiveScience points out. Great whites are a little scarier.

In this Feb. 14, 2007 photo, whale sharks swim at the Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa, southern Japan.
In this Feb. 14, 2007 photo, whale sharks swim at the Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa, southern Japan.   (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye, File)
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