Taxonomy [Rhincodon typus] [Phylum: Chordata] [Class: Chondrichthyes] [Family: Rhincodontidae]
Whale sharks are unmistakably the largest extant fish in the animal kingdom.
The immense 12 meter shark is a filter feeder which harmlessly roams the world's warm-water tropical oceans and open seas for an average of 70 years.
Weighing more than 20 metric tons, whale shark's sheer size and weight is unmatched by any non-mammalian vertebrate in surviving existence.
These two record breaking physiological facts and feeding habits have contributed to its common name of 'Whale Shark'. Their mammoth mouths predominantly feed on microscopic plankton however they have also been filmed devouring small fish and egg spawn.
Their rows of atrophied teeth have no present function in its active migratory feeding habits. They feed by ram filtration or active suction which are two unique methods that a whale shark is able to perform while it is stationary.
You might perceive a humongous shark fish to be vicious and aggressive towards humans.
Despite their persona, whale shark's characteristics and behavior to mankind is nonthreatening and in some rare instances quite playful.
They are docile and approachable around divers and snorkel swimmers.
Diving or snorkeling near a whale shark is a captivating experience. They are the most colossal and graceful fish in the ocean and a sought-after sighting for dive expeditions in selected areas of the world.
Whale sharks are undoubtedly a popular and interesting marine animal that divers seek to swim alongside, but there are many surprising facts about the whale shark that are not common knowledge to most people.
Get to know more about the biggest fish on the planet a little better reading through our random captivating facts about whale sharks.
The giant whale shark is the largest living fish species. Adult whale sharks grow to an average length of 12 meters. In fact, some of these colossal creatures reach almost twenty meters in size.
The heaviest whale sharks weigh more than 30 metric tons, which is close to 29,000 kilograms. Despite their unequaled size and weight, whale sharks do not prey on other mammals or large fishes.
Instead, they eat by surface feeding on a steady diet of tiny crustaceans and huge amounts of plankton. They filter tiny fish and plants from massive mouthfuls of water for food.
Whale sharks are cartilaginous which means they do not have a typical fish-like skeletal backbone. Similar to most sharks species and rays, their structure is shaped by a tough yet flexible tissue called cartilage.
Whale sharks favor warm water environments. Nevertheless, you can encounter whale shark sightings in some surprising places throughout the world. Year round, the best chance of spotting a whale shark is around the Seychelles, off the east coast of Taiwan, and the Honduras area of Central America.
Whale Sharks migrate over extremely long distances. In fact, they regularly travel more than 10,000 kilometers during their migration periods. You can also find this amazing migratory species in The Pacific, The Atlantic, and The Indian Oceans during certain months of the year.
Unlike many other shark or fish species, it is easy to spot the difference between male and female whale sharks. To differentiate between males and females, only the male whale shark displays a pair of appendages called claspers. They are not present in females.
Claspers are rolls of calcium cartilage used for mating. You can also spot the female whale shark because she is usually larger than the male. Adult whale sharks do not start breeding until they are at least 30 years old.
Baby whale sharks are surprisingly small when they are first born. In contrast to the enormous size of adult species, the juveniles are less than one meter in length when they are born from eggs. The female lays the eggs after the fish have already developed inside.
Whale sharks currently remain among the list of vulnerable species. Despite this threat to their survival, they continue to be hunted in some Asian countries.
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