Scientific name..........Rhincodon Typus
The whale shark is a "gentle giant" of sorts. It is the sole living
member of its family and the worlds largest living fish.
It has a huge mouth that extends across that extends across the full
width of the flattened head. The mouth is at the front of its head
not on the underside like most sharks. Their eyes are small and far
forward on there wide flattened head. Each nostril has a small
barbel and the gill slits are long and extend above the pectoral
fins. Above the small pelvic fins are the first of two dorsal fins.
The powerful caudal fin is semicircular.
The whale shark has a massive, fusiform body that reaches lengths in
excess of 46 feet and can weigh up to 15 tons. Females are larger
than males like most sharks.
The Whale Shark has about 300 rows of tiny, hooked teeth in both
jaws. These teeth are a maximum of 1/8' long, but they are of little
use. They neither chew or bite their food as they are filter
These sharks are primarily bronze, dark-gray or greenish-gray on
their upper bodies, and have a cream color on their underbelly. They
have random white dots and lines on their backs. These
distinguishing features have aided researchers in finding
individuals in their studies.
Whale sharks use a fine mesh of rakers attached to their gills to
strain food from the water. Its been speculated that whale sharks
feed by literally vacuuming food from the water. However they have
been observed that the sharks usually feed by actively swimming
through a mass off zooplankton or small fish with their mouths wide
open. Whale sharks scoop up water in their huge mouths, and as water
passes over their gills and out through their gill slits, food is
captured in filters attached to the gills. These filters are made up
of tissues supported by cartilaginous rods. Despite their huge size,
whale sharks feed on plankton ( tiny animals that drift into sea ),
small fish and squid. They occasionally eat larger fish such as
mackerel and tuna, which are swallowed as they scoop up schools of
smaller fish. They can feed in a ventricle position, even sticking
their heads out of water and sinking down to draw large fish into
Whale sharks are solitary creatures. Groups of whale sharks are
rarely seen. Despite it's great size and imposing appearance, this
shark is harmless to humans, even letting scuba divers clamber over
it's body unharmed.
The whale shark is worldwide and is found in all tropical and
subtropical oceans, along coastal regions, and enters lagoons on
tropical islands. It is mostly seen on the surface where divers and
snorkelers can swim with this gentle, curious creature.
It is estimated that whale sharks may live up to 100 to 150 years.
It is believed that whale sharks are viviparous, giving birth to
live young. Despite their large adult size whale sharks are very
small at birth with lengths of about 2 feet long.
Being slow swimming fishes, the whale sharks top speed is 3mph.
Whale sharks are not aggressive and therefore are harmless to people
and usually indifferent to divers.
Common in some regions.