"Whale" is the colloquial term for someone who holds (or hodls) large amounts of digital assets. Whales tend not to trade often, but when they do, the transactions they make tend to be large-volume and have statistically significant influences on the volatility of the digital asset that they either traded or moved from a wallet to an exchange. For a time, "whale" referred mostly to people who hold large amounts of bitcoin; however, in 2019, a study published by the blockchain research firm Chainalysis revealed that one-third of the total supply of Ether, the native cryptocurrency of the Ethereum platform, was held by just 376 people worldwide.
Tracking whale behavior has sparked the creation of dedicated entities that monitor major blockchains and provide both public and private reports of large transactions. TokenAnalyst and WhaleAlert are two of the best known services.
In December 2019, Coin Metrics, a cryptocurrency data analysis firm, reported that holdings by bitcoin whales, which it defined as holders of more than 1,000 bitcoins, had increased to 42.1% of all supply, up from 37.9% two years earlier.
A year later, in December 2020, after a rapid run-up in the bitcoin price to more than $18,000 the number of bitcoin whales had increased by 17% over year earlier numbers according to Chainalysis, a cryptocurrency analytics firm. Flipside, another cryptocurrency analysis firm, said that the concentration of holdings by whales had increased during the bitcoin rally in the second half of 2020.
Mircea Popescu was a special sort of whale in that he reportedly owned one million bitcoin. Popescu was an an early adopter of bitcoin. The accidental death of 41-year old Mircea Popescu while swimming in Costa Rica was first reported on June 23, 2021 and was later confirmed by Costa Rican authorities. The reports prompted speculation about the fate of Popescu's bitcoin fortune, especially whether it would be liquidated by his heirs or if the private keys were lost.
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