You're gonna need a bigger boat

The biggest fish in the world are girls

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Move over boys, the biggest fish in the sea are girls.

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Whale sharks were already known as the biggest fish in the sea. And don’t be intimidated by “shark” — these massive animals are known to be docile.

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But researchers have officially handed the crown specifically to female whale sharks.

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Scientists followed 54 whale sharks for more than a decade to study the biology of how these little-studied creatures grow.

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And they found something interesting: Males grow fast and reach 30 feet long. Females grow much slower, only about 20-30 cm per year, but they reach lengths up to 40-45 feet.

That’s twice as long as a giraffe is tall.

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There are advantages for female whale sharks to grow so large, the scientists said.

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"Only one pregnant whale shark had ever been found, and she had 300 young inside her," said Mark Meekan, a fish biologist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science and lead author of the new paper.

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The new findings will help in conservation efforts because it will help researchers understand whale shark behavior better.

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For instance, a whale shark’s slow growth rate means that it faces more dangers, like targeting fishing and collisions with ships, before reaching maturity.

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"If you're a very slow-growing animal and it takes you 30 years or more to get to maturity, the chances of disaster striking before you get a chance to breed is probably quite high," Meekan said.

The more we know about these mysterious ocean creatures, the better we can help them.

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Read more animal stories here.

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