The largest fish in the world "Whale sharks", is a massive, and usually solitary creature. But what is the whale shark? That's what you're going to find out now!
The Whale sharks or its scientific name "Rhincodon typus" 🦈, has several characteristics that make it unique. Its imposing size is similar to that of the largest whale species.
Its particularly spotted skin, its way of eating by filtering its food and its swimming style, using its entire body to move while other sharks propel themselves thanks to their tail and its average lifespan of 70 years will make you appreciate this gigantic fish bigger than a white shark. What is a whale shark? You're going to know it right now.👍
What family is the whale shark in?
It family is Rhincodontidae, it class is Chondrichthyes -> sub-class: Elasmobranchii -> Super order: Euselachii -> Order: Orectolobiformes.
Why the whale shark?
To begin with, this shark is not related to whales 🐳, it is an integral part of the Shark Nation. The reasons for its name are related to 2 things:
- Their immense size, which is not unlike the size of the great whale species.
- Their feeding behavior, this species filter their food just like baleen whales and 2 other species of sharks including the basking shark.
What does it eat ?
This massif shark is what we call a filter feeder. They are one of only 3 species of sharks to filter and swallow their food.
- Whale shark ;
- Megamouth shark ;
- Basking shark ;
This peaceful shark is omnivorous. It feeds mainly on small prey such as plankton, copepods (a group of small crustaceans), fish eggs, krill, red crab larvae and small organisms known as nectonics (marine organisms that can move against the currents), such as small squids or fish less than 10 cm long (mackerel for example) but also algae (this may be unintentional, since it filters its food and algae can get in).
A) How does it eat?
It has many rows of teeth that are only a few millimetres long, but they are useless for feeding because it filter the water.👌
Indeed, with a gaping mouth, while swimming slowly (rarely exceeding 3 mph) this massive shark sucks in water, closes its mouth and expels the water through its gills. Between the moment the mouth closes and the gill slits open, the gills block the passage of elements larger than 2 mm, but allow the water to flow out. The water comes out emptied of all these nutrients and the elements isolated by its gills are then swallowed.
B) How much?
Because the prey of this gigantic shark is small in size, it must swallow large quantities to feed. Scientists estimate that nearly one ton of plankton a day is swallowed by the whale shark.
What is the size of a whale shark?
It is the largest fish in the world. It measures between 4 and 14 meters (95% observation)📐, its average adult size is estimated at 9.8 m (32 ft), the size of a school bus. Limited data indicate that its sexual maturity occurs at lengths greater than 9 m (30 ft).
Specimens close to 18 m (59 ft) in length have been observed even if it is reported once its size has reached 20m for 34 tons. However, this species over 12 m (39 ft) in length are rarely observed.
It should be noted that both on land and at sea, it is difficult to measure large this big fish accurately.
- When measuring on land, the overall length is affected by the position of the tail, which can be tilted or stretched.
- Measuring in water, originally techniques for comparison with objects and ropes were used but lacked precision.
- Measuring with laser photogrammetry, this has been proposed in 2011 to improve measurements.
Is a whale shark bigger than a megalodon?
It is difficult to be precise on this subject, as the measurement conditions are not the same and remain uncertain. Indeed, the average size of a megalodon according to scientists' estimates is 16 to 18m. Its maximum size could reach 20m (67ft) in length.
As for the whale shark, with an average size of 9.8m, the estimates state, as stated earlier in this article, that a female shark was able to reach 20m, but this has been observed only once, so it cannot be generalized.
If one bases oneself on the average size then : Megalodon is larger than it.
If we base ourselves on the supposed maximum size then the Megalodon always stays in the lead unless we include the so-called 20m size of the whale shark (observed once) then they are almost the same size. However, it should not be forgotten that it is still difficult to effectively measure this massif shark, whereas for the Megalodon, scientists base their measurements on fossils that have been found
How do it breathe?
Contrary to the whale that must surface to breathe or risk drowning, it uses its gills to breathe. They allow it to recover the oxygen contained in the water.
What is a it habitat?
Whale sharks avoid cold seas and are mainly found in all tropical and warm-temperate seas 🌊. This fish is mainly pelagic and lives in the open sea, far from coastal areas and not in the great depths of the ocean. However, it is still able to dive to depths ranging from 1,286 to 1,800 metres.
A true Migrator
This cool shark is migratory. Information shows us that they gather seasonally in feeding areas.
One of the largest recorded gatherings, took place in 2011 off the coast of Yucatan. In this area the aggregations are among the best known and safest of whale sharks.
What is it weight ?
20.6 tons is the average weight, that's an extraordinary weight when we know that it feeds mainly on small fish and plankton.
it mode of reproduction is oviviparous (the eggs incubate and eventually hatch in the mother's womb). Its system is identical to that of the nurse shark. The young develop in the mother's womb in an egg, but they do not hatch in the water like most fish, but inside the mother.💋
Due to lack of information, it is not possible to determine an exact gestation period, but it is possible that it is similar to that of the nurse shark, i.e. 2 years.
The female gives birth to about 300 live young. The smallest whale sharks observed in the wild have been observed near continental waters and in the ocean. They measure between 55 and 59 cm long.
Are it dangerous?
This species of shark are not predators. They are perfectly harmless to humans. ☮️
Are whale sharks endangered?
Overfishing and its slow reproductive cycle are at the root of its vulnerability. Its flesh is highly appreciated in China and Taiwan, especially the fins. The black market value of one kilo is close to $700.
It is difficult to determine the total population of this big shark because of its geographic mobility. However, the IUCN considers this species to be endangered and has placed it on the red list.🆘
Also, since November 15, 2002, this immense shark has been on the CITES list. Since the last half of the twentieth century, very few mature females have been recorded among the whale sharks studied. This implies that individuals of reproductive age are declining. This could have the effect of affecting the number of births.
Which aquarium has it?
Located in the United States, in state of Gerogia, in Atlanta, you will be able to observe this whale shark at Georgia Aquarium.
Also, there are other aquariums in the world where you can observe them, such as the Japanese Kaiyukan Aquarium in Osaka, and also in Taiwan and China.
Whale shark are on Shark Nation
Now, you know what is a whale shark and the Shark Nation decided to create cool and beautiful design to pay tribute to this Pacific shark. Posters, mug, stickers and iPhone case to offer a beautiful, modern, gentle, captivating and peaceful image of the whale shark consistent with its character and what it represents.