Whale sharks are flocking to waters off of the Azore islands, a Portuguese archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean, a new study has found.
Whale sharks tend to enjoy warmer temperatures, but even this species has been affected by climate change, according to the study, which is published in the latest issue of the journal PLoS ONE.
It appears to be a Goldilocks effect where the sharks prefer temperatures that aren't too hot or too cold. Things must be just right - at least for the momen t– in the Azores, which is becoming whale shark central.
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Pedro Afonso of the University of the Azores and his colleagues wrote that the "occurrence of the whale shark in the wider Azores region increased drastically in 2008. Prior to this, and for a full decade, these large animals had only been sighted sporadically," but the sharks keep coming.
Whale sharks, the world's largest sharks, are slow-moving filter feeders known for their large mouths. They usually inhabit tropical and warm-temperate seas, preferring temperatures from 78.8 degrees Fahrenheit to 86 degrees.