Whale Shark Facts
- The Whale Shark represents a rather slow moving, filter-feeding shark, one of only three known such sharks species. It also remains the largest known existing species of fish.
- This amazing fish occurs in every tropical water, and also many temperate as well.
- Unconfirmed sightings indicate that there may be even larger individuals in the various oceans of the world.
- This creature has long been recognized as a gentle giant of the oceans. Their extreme docility even extends to sometimes allowing divers to hitch a ride.
Whale Shark Physical Characteristics
Adult specimens of the Whale Shark average roughly 31.8 ft (9.7 m) in length, and 20,000 lbs (9,072 kg) in weight. However, individual specimens could be as large as 41.5 ft (12.65 m) long and 47,000 lbs (21,319 kg).
The head develops rather flattened in shape and with a blunt snout. The mouth grows extremely wide, and two short barbels also protrude from its nostrils.
In color, the sides and back generally display shades of gray to brown. White spots appear among vertical and horizontal stripes, and its belly also typically shows white.
Species: R. typus
Whale Shark Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The magnificent Whale Shark typically lives in warm and tropical waters, in the open sea, but will also enter bays and lagoons occasionally. The greatest concentrations occur off the coasts of Australia, Africa, and Asia.
The species typically prefers mid-range depths but can dive to depths of as much as 4,200 ft (1,280 m).
It appears to have an average lifespan of about 70 years.
They feed primarily on plankton, krill, certain types of algae, and small squid and invertebrates. Their many rows of numerous teeth give them a frightening image, but they play no role in their feeding processes. Aside from the fact that they are ovoviviparous, nothing is known of their reproductive practices.