Whale sharks featured in National Geographic’s October issue

Photo courtesy of National Geographic. ©Michael Aw / National Geographic

The upcoming October 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine will feature the story “Sharing With Sharks,” which documents interactions between whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) and local fishermen off the island of New Guinea. The world’s largest species of shark is known to congregate in the area, where they have been observed searching for “free meals” either by pilfering a fisherman’s net or through voluntary hand-outs from the fishermen.

From National Geographic…

The giant fish is hard to study in part because it is hard to find and track. By tagging individual specimens, scientists have learned that whale sharks can log thousands of miles in years-long trips. But they sometimes disappear for weeks, diving more than a mile down and resting in the chilly deep for a spell. No one has ever found mating or birthing grounds.

Whale sharks are ordinarily loners. But not in one corner of Indonesia. The photographs on these pages, shot some eight miles off the province of Papua, reveal a group of sharks that call on fishermen each day, zipping by one another, looking for handouts near the surface, and nosing the nets—a rare instance when the generally docile fish act, well, like the rest of the sharks.

You can check out the entire online story at National Geographic’s "Sharing With Sharks". For more of Michael Aw’s photos taken on-location while working on this story, visit National Geographic’s accompanying "Sharing With Sharks" photo gallery.

"Sharing With Sharks" is featured in the October 2011 issue of National Geographic magazines, on newsstands September 27.

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