Basking Shark
Whale Shark
Basking Shark
Great White
Tiger Shark
Thresher Shark
Shortfin Mako
Blue Shark
Porbeagle Shark
Sand Tiger Shark
Sharpnose Shark
Oceanic Whitetip
Dusky Shark
Smooth Hammerhead
Portuguese
Rough Sagre
Smooth Dogfish
Spiny Dogfish
Black Dogfish

Whale Shark

HOME TYPES SPECIES FACTS BODY POPULATION BEHAVIOR HISTORY
MYTHS DANGERS TALES HELP GALLERY GUESTBOOK LINKS WHALES

Whale Shark
Rhincodon typus

Whale Shark
Photo modified from Sharks and Rays. TC Tricas, K Deacon, P Last, JE McCosker, TI Walker, L Taylor. 1997. Nature Company Guides, Time Life Book Series. Weldon Owen Pty Ltd San Francisco.

   The sole living member of its family, the whale shark is the world's largest living fish. Its massive, fusiform body reaches lengths in excess of 46' (14m). It has alternating thin white vertical bars and columns of spots on a dark background, with long ridges along the upper side of the body and a prominent lateral keel. The narrow mouth extends across the full width of its flattened head. The eyes are small and far forward on the head. Each nostril has a small barbel and the gill slits are long and extend above the pectoral fins. Above the relatively small pelvic fins are the first of two dorsal fins. The powerful caudal fin is semicircular.
   It was well-developed internal spongy filters at the gill arches, which help to retain small prey within its huge mouth. This mechanism may impede the flow of water through the mouth during swimming, which limits the amount of plankton the shark can strain. So, as well as filter feeding, it can also pump water into its mouth to feed on concentrated patches of plankton.

Diet

   This shark swims slowly near the surface, consuming small crustacean plankton, small fishes, such as sardines and anchovies, and even larger fishes such as mackerel.

Reproduction

   The whale shark is a live-bearer. Pregnant females were recently found to contain hundreds of young, up to about 2' (60cm) long.

Habitat

   The whale shark is found in all tropical and subtropical oceans, along coastal regions, and enters lagoons on tropical islands. It is mostly seen on the surface were divers and snorkelers can swim with this gentle, curious creature.

Range

   The whale shark ranges throughout the western and eastern Atlantic Ocean, the Indo-West, central, and eastern Pacific Ocean.

Whale Shark

Distinguishing Characteristics

  • Harmless
  • Seasonally, day and night
  • Appears curious with humans
A trevally disappears into the gaping mouth of the filter-feeding whale shark.
Photo modified from Sharks and Rays. TC Tricas, K Deacon, P Last, JE McCosker, TI Walker, L Taylor. 1997. Nature Company Guides, Time Life Book Series. Weldon Owen Pty Ltd San Francisco.

Back

HOME TYPES SPECIES FACTS BODY POPULATION BEHAVIOR HISTORY
MYTHS DANGERS TALES HELP GALLERY GUESTBOOK LINKS WHALES