MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. -- Scientists from Marine Laboratory & Aquarium (MOTE) were able to tag two whale sharks this week thanks to sightings reported by the public.

Five of the polka-dotted, filter-feeding giants were spotted offshore of Longboat Key. Two of them were tagged with tracking devices on Thursday, June 14. 

"It is not uncommon for whale sharks to be spotted feeding in the Gulf this time of year, but the duration of their stay is longer than in previous years," said Dr. Robert Hueter, senior scientist and director of the Center for Shark Research at MOTE. "Reported sightings are usually scattered, but the sharks' locations have stayed pretty stable, as most sightings have been about 30-40 miles off Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key."

The first shark, a 16-foot-long male nicknamed "Colt," was tagged around 12:30 p.m., about 40 miles offshore of Sarasota County. As the team was traveling back to shore around 2 p.m., they found and tagged a 22-to-25-foot female nicknamed "Minnie."

Whale shark Colt is named after Capt. Wylie Nagler's son, who accompanied the tagging team, and Minnie was named after Walt Disney's Minnie Mouse, in honor of Disney's support in providing the tags.  

The tracking tags will store data about the whale sharks' location and the depths and temperatures they encounter.

"The tags incorporate archival data collection and storage as well as Fastloc GPS location detection," said Jack Morris, senior biologist at MOTE. "This configuration provides GPS location data that can be received via satellite, and long-term depth and temperature data that can be retrieved once the tags release in six months."