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World's largest fish could be even bigger than previously thought

February 8, 2011 - London

A new study has revealed that whale sharks, the world's biggest fish, could be even bigger than previously recorded.

Scientists working in Mozambique have developed a new method of measurement using a camera mounted with lasers.

Although previously estimated at up to 20 metres in length, accurate details of the giant fish have been difficult to obtain in the past.

According to the researchers, regular measurements will reveal more about the lifecycles of these sea giants.

Scientists studying whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) describe a technological breakthrough in understanding the plankton-eating giants.

The researchers worked with the University of Queensland, the Marine Megafauna Foundation and CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research.

"Our paper is the first to publish accurate measurements for whale sharks in the field," the BBC quoted Christoph Rohner.

"Other researchers have previously tried to measure the sharks with a tape measure, or by visually estimating size, which is obviously difficult to do accurately," he added.

Many previous size records were based on the photogrammetery method: estimating measurements from photographs.

Researchers claim they have dramatically improved the precision of this method with the addition of two laser pointers.

By positioning the lasers 50cm apart on either side of the camera, the distance between the projected points provides a fixed scale so that photographs can be analysed with greater accuracy.

"The laser system will allow us to reliably obtain accurate measurements from free-swimming sharks, so we may well find out that the world's largest fish is even larger than presently recorded," says Mr Rohner.

The study has been published in the Journal of Fish Biology.


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