Learning to draw blood from the world’s largest fish
How do you take a whale shark to the vet? You don’t, of course. You bring the animal care expert to the whale shark. At Georgia Aquarium, the animal care team dives in the Ocean Voyager Built by The Home Depot exhibit, home to four whale sharks, every day to take a close-up look at the whale sharks and watch how they swim. But observation takes you only so far.
Knowing what’s happening inside these gentle marine giants calls for performing blood tests. How you draw blood from a swimming whale shark? That’s a good question, one that whale shark experts at Georgia Aquarium set out to answer.
Blood can tell a lot about the health of an individual whale shark and also reveal clues about wild whale shark populations, which helps inform efforts to protect and care for this endangered species.
Chris Schreiber, Director of Fish and Invertebrates at Georgia Aquarium, knew it was possible to collect blood from the pectoral fin. But exactly where and how to do it? The pectoral fin can be as large as a dining room table and plenty thick.
Watch the video to hear him describe how, after six dives, he developed an effective methodology, which was later used to collect blood from 28 wild whale sharks during an expedition in Indonesia. Read about that expedition at news.georgiaaquarium.org/stories/the-journey-begins-a-promising-partnership-for-whale-shark-research.