AB 9:177-183 (2010)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/ab00252

Blood cells and serum chemistry in the world’s largest fish: the whale shark Rhincodon typus

Alistair D. M. Dove1,*, Jill Arnold2, Tonya M. Clauss1

1Veterinary Services and Conservation Medicine, Georgia Aquarium, 225 Baker Street, Atlanta, Georgia 30313, USA
2National Aquarium in Baltimore, 501 E. Pratt Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21202, USA

ABSTRACT: Descriptive information regarding the peripheral blood of normal whale sharks Rhincodon typus Smith 1828 is presented based on samples collected from 2 healthy female specimens held in an aquarium collection. Erythrocyte morphology was similar to other orectolobiforms and major leukocyte types were similar to other non-carcharhinid sharks. The numerically dominant population was the lymphocyte (46%), followed by the fine eosinophilic granulocyte or heterophil (39.5%). The remaining 15% of white blood cells were divided among coarse eosinophilic granulocytes or eosinophils, simple neutrophils, monocytes similar to those of most elasmobranchs and a rare basophilic stippled granulocyte or basophil. Thrombocytes were similar to those of other shark species; no granulated thrombocytes were observed in this species. Blood gas data and serum chemistry values are also presented. For comparison, 22 blood samples collected from 2 moribund male specimens showed that the heterophil/lymphocyte ratio may be a potentially useful biomarker of whale shark health. A pattern of marked heterophilia in these animals became more pronounced as their clinical condition deteriorated. These data represent the first exploration of the internal biology of the world’s largest fish.


KEY WORDS: Rhincodon · Whale shark · Blood · Serum chemistry


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Cite this article as: Dove ADM, Arnold J, Clauss TM (2010) Blood cells and serum chemistry in the world’s largest fish: the whale shark Rhincodon typus. Aquat Biol 9:177-183. https://doi.org/10.3354/ab00252

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