With sea surface temperatures warming significantly, we began our manta ray surveys on Wednesday, 29 March. Flying south on our 1.5 nm track line, abeam of Ormond-By-The-Sea, we spotted a very large whale-shaped form about a half mile off our left side. Banking around to take a closer look, we realized that we were seeing a whale shark, so close to the surface that its dorsal and tail fins were slightly above water, slowly swimming south. This is the first time that we have ever seen a whale shark during our aerial surveys. Of course, we took photos!
As the name implies, whale sharks are true sharks and the largest in the shark family. Their skeleton is composed of cartilage instead of bone, but, unlike their fearsome cousins, whale sharks feed on plankton. Females can grow to over 40 ft. The one we saw was probably just under 20 ft., likely a juvenile Still, it was a thrill to see!