Creature Feature: Whale Shark

Whale-shark-feeding Ron and Valerie Taylor Arkive

Do you know which is the largest fish in the world? Even though it is not a whale (whales, unlike fish are mammals you Whale-shark-teeth Jurgen Freund Arkiveknow) you could say that it is a whale of fish!

Give up? It’s the Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) reaching up to 60 feet. Such a big animal might sound intimidating, butWhale-shark-gills Adam Broadbent Arkive
don’t be alarmed. This shark is extremely docile and doesn’t even like to eat organisms any larger than a small goldfish. Whale Sharks prefer plankton, which are mostly microscopic drifting organisms.
Whale sharks have very helpful adaptations which allow them to feed on tiny planktonic plants and animals. One of these adaptations is the large mouth located almost at the tip of the snout. They are able to open their mouth really wide and are able to filter plankton from the water through internal sieve-like screens and out through their gill slits.

In addition to being humongous, Whale Sharks have flattened heads and blunt snout, making them easy to distinguish from other sharks. The color pattern on this shark’s body is brownish gray with white spots and vertical stripes on the dorsal (top) side and white on the underside.

Whale Sharks like to live in tropical waters and are a popular animal for local tourism in Australia. Who wouldn’t want to swim alongside these gentle giants? Sadly, these massive beauties are still being hunted in parts of Asia and are considered a vulnerable species.

Join us next week as we begin to look at strange and unusual sharks found through history.

References:
Edited by KC O’Shea
Photography: Ron and Valerie Taylor, Adam Broadbent, and Jurgen Freund Courtesy of ARKIVE

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