Whale Shark Medicine 101: Exam Procedures and Diagnostic Techniques
IAAAM Archive
Tonya Clauss1; Alistair Dove1; Christian Schreiber1; Timothy Binder1; Christopher Coco1; Ray Davis1; Ashlie Vinson1; Nicole LaBove1; Michele Moses1; Michael Maslanka1; Michael Walsh1; Jill Arnold2
1Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta, GA, USA; 2National Aquarium in Baltimore, Baltimore, MD, USA


The whale shark, Rhincodon typus, is the largest fish in the world. The size of the animal and its restriction to the water create numerous logistical challenges when handling for medical procedures. Principal among the challenges is capture and restraint in a manner that is safe for the people and the animal involved. Additional challenges include collection of diagnostic samples, imaging techniques, and delivery of medications, supplements or fluids. Morphometrics are yet another challenge. At seven meters, a whale shark may weigh 1300 to 1500 kilograms. The most significant of the obstacles is analysis of the biological specimens and subsequent interpretation and action. There is currently no database of clinical information on whale sharks. Scientists also have much to learn about this species' anatomy, physiology, and ethology. The experience gained from husbandry and veterinary practices with the four whale sharks acquired by the Georgia Aquarium as well as the data obtained from diagnostic procedures can be invaluable in future efforts to better understand and appreciate these enigmatic elasmobranchs in their natural environment and aquariums. The Georgia Aquarium staff has overcome many of the challenges involved in handling and performing medical procedures with these animals and hopes to collaborate with the other institutions maintaining whale sharks in an effort to increase the database of information and enhance conservation efforts.

Speaker Information
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Tonya Clauss

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