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Whale Sharks May Mate In Captivity For The First Time

Japan’s Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is wondering: will they or won’t they?

One of the world's only captive whale sharks, at Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta.
One of the world’s only captive whale sharks, at Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. Zac Wolf/CC BY-SA 2.5

The modern world is paradise for voyeuristic humans. But as of now, there’s at least one thing people haven’t gotten to see: we have never watched whale sharks have sex.

Now one aquarium is trying to change all that. According to the Japan News, Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium has recently begun displaying a pair of whale sharks, in the hope that they’ll do the deed.

Whale sharks are the largest known fish species, and can grow to at least 42 feet—the length of an RV. They live about as long as humans do, and are filter feeders, surviving on copious amounts of tiny creatures, like plankton.

But scientists know very little about their lives, including how they mate or have offspring. Okinawa Churaumi, which is one the only aquariums in the world large enough to hold the creatures, has been raising several since 2005. They recently released one of their females into an ocean pen, to give the other two a chance to get closer.

“It’s a rare chance in the first place for a mature pair of whale sharks to be kept together,” aquarium curator Keiichi Sato told the outlet. He hopes for success, because captive breeding of whale sharks would allow him and other researchers to display and study them without having to deplete the wild population.

“My mind is now filled with thoughts of the two,” he said. And I bet yours is, too.

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