Facts: The Whale Shark
Reaching around 40ft (12m) in length, the whale shark is the largest fish in the world. Whale sharks are slow-moving and docile creatures that inhabit the tropical and temperate ocean waters worldwide. These giants are one of the three known living species of filter feeding sharks. They feed on plankton like copepods, and krill, along with small fish. Whale sharks accomplish this by using there, up to 5ft (1.5m) long mouth like a vacuum to suck water and food in. Food particles taken in are separated from the water by specialized filter pads. The filtered food is swallowed while excess water is pumped out through their gills. They also have over 300 rows of small teeth that appear to serve no purpose in feeding. These fish have small eyes and eat around 46lbs (21kg) of food each day. So they rely on sense organs located in their head to detect the electrical fields given off from prey. Whale sharks migrate based on food availability and water temperatures. They normally travel as solitary individuals, but they have been observed in schools as large as 100 fish. Most of their time is spent swimming near the surface waters of the open ocean, although, they occasionally swim closer to shore. The pattern of white spots on their back is unique to each individual. This allows scientists to more easily identify different individuals. Whale sharks don’t reach reproductive maturity until about 30 years of age. Like other sharks, they are ovoviviparous. This means that young will hatch inside their mother and feed off of a yolk sac until their live birth. The pups may already be 2ft (0.6m) long when they are born. Mature whale sharks don’t have to worry very much about predation due to massive size and 4in (10cm) thick skin. They are estimated to be able to live 70 years or more. Although, in some countries they are still fished by humans for their meat. Whale sharks are hard to study in teh wild since they usually roam the open ocean alone. For more marine facts, click the subscribe button!!