Stranded whale shark (Rhincodon typus) reveals vulnerability of filter-feeding elasmobranchs to marine litter in the Philippines

Neil Angelo S Abreo, Darrell Blatchley, Michael Dann Superio
Marine Pollution Bulletin 2019, 141: 79-83
Marine litter has adversely affected many marine species. However, information on its impacts on filter-feeding elasmobranchs (such as the whale shark, Rhinocodon typus) is scarce. The Philippines is an essential habitat for whale sharks, and the lack of data on marine litter and its effects on these organisms in the country is concerning. Beached carcasses present opportunities to provide useful data and insights on the issue. On the 7th August 2018, a live whale shark was found beached in Tagum City, the Philippines, and it eventually died. As part of the post-mortem examination, the gastrointestinal tract and gills of the specimen were examined. Marine litter was found lodged in its gills, and pieces of plastic were found inside its stomach (including several pieces likely from local sources within the Philippines). This study is the first documentation of litter in whale sharks from the Philippines, confirming their vulnerability to marine litter.

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