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Whale Shark

Threat Level:  low-medium

 

 

 

  • WHALE SHARK

Scientific name..........Rhincodon Typus

Family name..........Rhincodontidae

 

  • GENERAL DESCRIPTION

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.

 

  • SIZE

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.

 

  • TEETH

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 feeders.

 

  • COLOR

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.

 

  • FEEDING HABITS

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 ventrical position, even sticking their heads out of water and sinking down to draw large fish into their mouths.

 

  • SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR

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.

 

  • HABITAT

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.

 

  • LIFE SPAN

It is estimated that whale sharks may live up to 100 to 150 years.

 

  • REPRODUCTION

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.

 

  • SWIMMING

Being slow swimming fishes, the whale sharks top speed is 3mph.

 

  • SHARK ATTACKS

Whale sharks are not aggressive and therefore are harmless to people and usually indifferent to divers.

 

  • POPULATION REPORT

Common in some regions.

 

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