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How Do You Take a Sonogram on a Swimming Whale Shark?

Answer: with a jetpack, of course!

Little is known about the reproductive health of whale sharks, said Dr. Simon Pierce of the Marine Megafauna Foundation, "Whale shark breeding is a mystery. Only one pregnant shark has been physically examined so far, back in 1995 in Taiwan."

So when divers spotted a huge female whale shark in the waters north of Galapagos, a team of researchers hurried on over there to see if they could take an ultrasound image of its organs.

But how do you perform an ultrasound scan underwater?

The team conducted scans using a 17 kg ultrasound system in a waterproofed case. Whale sharks have tough protective skin, more than 20 cm thick on some individuals, so the 30 cm penetration of the ultrasound waves proved a challenge – not to mention the difficulty of carefully checking the whole belly area of a gigantic shark while it is swimming. Dr Matsumoto had to use a propellor system mounted on his air-tank to keep up with the sharks.
“We use some interesting technology anyway, but working with the Okinawa team was something else”, commented Dr Pierce. “I felt cool by association. We saw dive groups a couple of times at the site, and I can only imagine what they thought – why is that guy diving with a briefcase? And a jetpack?”

Read the rest over at Marine Megafauna Foundation

More pics below:

Images: Dr. Simon Pierce, Jonathan R. Green / Galapagos Whale Shark Project

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