Photo of ‘Smiling’ Whale Shark With Mouth Full of Friendly Remoras Wins Photo Competition

November 10, 2020 Updated: November 10, 2020

An underwater adventure turned into a fantastic photo opportunity for one lucky diver recently when he managed to capture an enormous whale shark appearing to smile right back at him with a mouth full of fish.

Evans Baudin, 32, a French marine wildlife expert, was diving off Baja California, Mexico, in June this year when he encountered the giant whale shark. He had been granted special permission to conduct research on the effects reduced marine traffic, a result of the pandemic, has had on oceanic wildlife.

Baudin shared his account of the discovery to Scuba Diving magazine. “After two hours in the water with a school of silky sharks near the surface, our boat captain yelled, ‘Whale shark, right behind you!’—a 12-plus-meter female,” he told the media outlet. “The surprise was twofold when I discovered about 50 remoras peacefully enjoying a free ride in her mouth!”

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Grand prize winner (Courtesy of Evans Baudin/Scuba Diving magazine)

The stunning underwater photo was submitted to the magazine’s prestigious Through Your Lens Award and beat more than 2,600 other entries to scoop the grand prize. This is the annual competition’s 16th run.

Baudin had shared the encounter previously, on social media, captioning on Instagram: “Yesterday, I met one of the most beautiful creatures I have ever seen … A whale shark for the book! An adult pregnant female, +12 meters! She was so massive that even a whole squad of remoras used her mouth to a free ride!! Thank you mother nature, it was a wonderful day with an absolutely unbelievable creature …”

Clearly delighted with winning the competition, Baudin posted on Facebook shortly after garnering the prize. He wrote:

“Thank you, thank you, thank you. My Whale Shark picture was selected as the Grand Prize Winner of All Categories in the Through Your Lens Photo Contest 2020 by Scuba Diving Magazine. Feeling so honored right now, especially after seeing the incredible work of all the photographers who entered the contest. I still can’t believe the news, some of my favorite underwater photographers were also competing … it’s just wooow. Thank you to all the juries for choosing my image.”

According to the WWF, whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) are the largest shark, and indeed largest of any fish alive today. They feed on plankton and travel large distances to find enough food to sustain their huge size, and reproduce.

They are found in all the tropical oceans of the world. Their white-spotted coloration makes these gentle giants easy to distinguish, and popular with snorkelers and divers at sites where they aggregate off the coast.

The maximum size of whale sharks is not known, but could be as long as 20 meters.

While sharks are known to be accompanied by remoras, Baudin’s recent encounter shows just how intimate that relationship can be. The sea surely holds wonders stranger than this that we’re yet to discover.

Here are some of the other winners of the photo competition:

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1st Place, Behavior (Courtesy of Jules Casey/Scuba Diving magazine)
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1st place, Compact Camera (Courtesy of Tobias Friedrich/Scuba Diving magazine)
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1st Place, Macro (Courtesy of Jeffrey Haines/Scuba Diving magazine)
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1st Place, Wide-Angle (Courtesy of Martin Strmiska/Scuba Diving magazine)

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