Whale sharks spotted near oil spill

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Posted: Jul 1, 2010 10:19 AM by Jessica Dunne
Source: Associated Press

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Topics: whale sharks, BP, oil, spill, slick, leak, Gulf of Mexico, fish

Whale sharks may be the latest casualty of the Gulf oil spill. The giant fish have been seen in heavy oil a few miles from the spewing well.

Whale sharks feed by vacuuming in large amounts of water in their mouths, filtering plankton and other food. That means the fish could be taking in mouthfuls of thick oil, and that is not conducive to their survival, according to a researcher at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Scientists say there is no way to tell how many of them will die from the spill, because the giant animals will sink to the sea floor.

Whale sharks migrate north each spring from waters near the Yucatan peninsula to feed near the mouth of the Mississippi River. The oil leak is about 40 miles southeast of the river.

The fish are on the World Conservation Union's "red list" of threatened species.

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