Whalesharks with Parasites

Having just got back from the Insider Divers expedition to Tubbataha we are all still totally psyched about how many whalesharks we saw. On each on of the three atolls we encountered many whalesharks. Most of them were "social" as they turned around to swim back to the divers and sometimes spent long periods of time interacting with us.

Same as on our last trips we noticed that almost all of the whalesharks are covered with black spots. This year the sharks were covered with these patches even more than last time.

A lot of the area affected is around the mouth the fins and the back of the sharks.

The animals have different degrees of the patches such as this poor character dubbed "Lipstick" who has a dense coverage of the mysterious patches around the entire mouth area. (Lipstick also had just been freed of a rope around the neck, you can see that scar there. Really not a fortunate creature.)

This one is called mohawk for the line along his back.

So what is this gunk and why is it specific to Tubbataha? Upon a closer look we can see that the patches are actually clusters of individual animals.