Second whale shark dies at Georgia Aquarium

ATLANTA (AP) — Norton, one of the original whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium, died early Wednesday, the aquarium’s second whale shark death in five months.

In the last few months, Norton had stopped eating and showed erratic swimming behavior, aquarium officials said in a statement.

Husbandry staff noticed a decline in Norton’s swimming behavior on Tuesday and blood work confirmed a decline in his health.

Norton had been placed on a 24-hour watch. Early Wednesday morning, the whale shark stopped swimming and settled to the bottom of his tank, aquarium officials said.

Divers brought him to a stretcher and ‘‘after every option had been exhausted to improve Norton’s health, the team made the decision to humanely euthanize him,’’ the aquarium said.

In January, Ralph, another whale shark, died. Ralph had stomach problems that led to an inflammation of a membrane in his abdomen, according to aquarium officials. But some animal rights groups have questioned whether his death involved a chemical used in the tank to treat parasites.

The aquarium officials agree the tank’s treatment routine — which has since been changed — likely contributed to Ralph’s loss of appetite, but they say it’s not clear that it had anything to do with the fatal peritonitis.