Whale Shark Facts
Whale shark facts, [Rhincodon typus] is the largest fish species living in the ocean and is a slow-moving filter feeding shark.
The largest confirmed whale shark had a length of 12.65 metres weighing almost 22 tonnes and larger individuals although unconfirmed are quite likely.
Also despite being the largest fish in the world, the whale shark does have predators, as killer whales are known to attack and feed on this species.
It is capable of diving to depths of 700 metres (2,300 ft), and is migratory.
As a filter feeder it has a huge mouth which can be up to 1.5 metres wide and can contain between 300 and 350 rows of tiny teeth. It has five large pairs of gills.
Like many fish, the whale shark has an overall cryptic coloration with a light colored belly, which when viewed from below allows it to blend with the surface of the ocean , and the upper surface which makes it harder to see from above is mostly grey and darker in colour.
Also it has disruptive coloration and from above the skin is marked with a "checkerboard" of pale yellow spots and stripes that break up its shape and creates the illusion of schooling fish.
These markings are unique to each individual and are useful for counting the whale shark population.
Three prominent ridges run along each side of the fish and its skin can be up to 10 centimetres thick.
The whale shark inhabits all tropical and warm temperate seas and seasonal feeding aggregations occur at several coastal sites such as the southern and eastern parts of South Africa, Gladden Spit in Belize, Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, Honduras, Yucatan Mexico, Madagascar, Mozambique, and the Tanzanian islands of Mafia, Pemba and Zanzibar and of course the South Ari Atoll in the Maldives
Although usually seen offshore, they can easily be found closer to land, entering lagoons or coral atolls.
This species, does not pose any significant danger to humans, divers and snorkelers can swim with a whale shark without risk apart from unintentional blows from the shark’s large tail fin.
The capture of a pregnant female in 1996 that was found to be carrying 300 pups indicates that the eggs remain in the body and the females give birth to live young which are 40 to 60 centimetres long. It is believed that they reach sexual maturity at around 30 years of age and the life span is an estimated to be around 70 to 100 years.
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