Marine Biodiversity Records

Research Article

Sightings of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) off Angola and Nigeria

Caroline R. Weira1a2 c1

a1 Ketos Ecology, 4 Compton Road, West Charleton, Kingsbridge, Devon TQ7 2BP, UK

a2 Department of Zoology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Tillydrone Avenue, Aberdeen, AB24 2TZ, UK

Abstract

Knowledge of the whale shark, Rhincodon typus, in the south-east Atlantic off the coast of West Africa is limited to several bycatch and stranding records. Ten at-sea sightings of whale sharks from Angola (N = 9) and Nigeria (N = 1) are presented, consisting of nine sightings from offshore platforms and a single record from a helicopter. Eight of the records were from oceanic waters exceeding 1000 m, while single records originated from shelf-edge and continental shelf waters. The records support a year-round occurrence of whale sharks in offshore West African waters, although the majority (N = 8) of sightings occurred during the spring and summer months between September and January. Most sightings (N = 8) were of whale sharks estimated to be in the 5–7 m length-range. These records represent the first verified at-sea sightings in the West Africa region providing novel information on behaviour and distribution, and also confirm Nigeria as a range state for the whale shark.

(Received March 07 2009)

(Accepted August 05 2009)

Correspondence:

c1 Correspondence should be addressed to: C.R. Weir, Ketos Ecology, 4 Compton Road, West Charleton, Kingsbridge, Devon TQ7 2BP, UK email: Caroline.Weir@ketosecology.co.uk