Whale Sharks are the largest fish in the world growing up to 12 m long! Their colour pattern is as unique as our fingerprints.
|Scientific name:||Rhincodon typus|
|Range:||Tropical waters worldwide|
|Reproduction:||Give birth to live young|
|Predators:||Orca, Blue Marlin and Blue Shark|
|IUCN Conservation status||Vulnerable|
Classification and identification: What makes a Whale Shark a Whale Shark?
Sharks belong to the subclass elasmobranchii which includes sharks, skates and rays. Members of the elasmobranchii share a set of key characteristics. Their skeletons are made up of a strong, light, flexible material called cartilage. They have rows of replaceable teeth and 5-9 gill slits. Elasmobranchii have many highly developed senses, including the ability to detect tiny changes in electricity around them.
Whale Sharks have flattened heads, their snout is blunt and has short barbels protruding from the nostrils. They have two dorsal fins towards the back of the body and a large dual-lobed tail. Its boy is mainly grey to brown with a white belly. It has white spots and pale vertical and horizontal stripes. The pattern of individual Whale Sharks is as individual as our fingerprints.
Whale Shark Adaptations
The skin of the Whale Shark is almost 13cm thick to protect it from predators.
Habitat and range: Where do Whale Sharks live?
Whale Sharks prefer warm waters and can be found in all tropical waters. Every spring they migrate to the continental shelf of the central west coast of Australia which provides an abundant supply of plankton.
How big are Whale Sharks?
Whale Sharks are the largest fish in the world. They typically grow between 5.5m and 10m. The largest Whale Shark ever recorded was 12.2m long and it is thought that they could be able to grow even larger than this. They weigh around 18.7tonnes.
Life Span: How long do Whale Sharks live?
Whale Sharks may be one of the longest living animals in the world with an estimated lifespan of over 100 years!
Diet: What do Whale Sharks eat?
The largest fish in the sea gets to its size by eating tiny plankton! The Whale Shark is a filter feeder, when feeding it sticks out its jaw and passively filters everything in its path. Whale Sharks are the only filter feeding sharks that can feed when stationary. To do so, they hover vertically in the water column and suck prey into their mouths.
Predators: What eats Whale Sharks?
Blue Marlin, Blue Shark and Orca are known predators of juvenile Whale Shark.
Reproduction: How do Whale Sharks produce their young?
Unlike most fish, female Whale Sharks give birth to live young. Females retain the fertilized eggs within their body, where the embryos receive nourishment from yolk sacs. The eggs hatch within the mother and are born shortly afterwards. By allowing the embryo to develop inside the mothers body, it is protected from predation.
Conservation status: Are Whale Sharks endangered and if so why?
Whale Shark are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ by the IUCN meaning that they are at high risk of extinction in the wild.
Whale Sharks have high market value; demand for their meat, fins and oil threatens their populations. They are also victims of bycatch. Whale Shark tourism can also disrupt their feeding and the boats used can injure them.