Whale Shark

ANIMAL:
Whale Shark     Rhincodon typus

Type of Animal:
Carpet Shark

Habitat:
Tropical/subtropical/temperate seas preferring warmer water, continental shelves, reefs, open sea, found as deep as 6,000 ft, offshore areas, coral atolls, lagoons, mouths of estuaries/rivers, coastal areas, near beaches, found in water from 68-86 F, making them migratory

Location(s):
All tropical/subtropical/ seas/oceans as well as some temperate areas as far N as S New York. Absent from Mediterranean.

Appearance:
Largest fish & largest non-mammalian vertebrate in world, dark gray to brown w/ pale grey or white spots/stripes all over, wide flat head w/ 2 small eyes at front corners, white belly, 3 prominent ridges on side, big mouths at front of head

Food/Diet:
Zooplankton (i.e. copepods, shrimp, krill, fish eggs, red crab larvae etc), phytoplankton (algae, marine plants), sardines, anchovies, squid, mackerel, albacore, small tuna, jellyfish

Status in Wild:
Endangered

Conservation:
Studying of habits/patterns, sustainable fishing habits

Lifestyle:
Solitary or aggregations ranging from 10-200 sharks, sometimes as many as 400

Additional Info:

Called:
Male
Female
Young-Pup
Group-School
 
Weight:
Male: 9-11 tons
Female: 20 tons
Young: 200-300 lbs

Gestation:
11 months 

Life Span:
70-80 years, possibly up to 130 years

Body Length:
Male: 20-25 ft
Female: 40 ft
Young: 10 ft

Tail Length:
Male: 8 ft
Female: 10 ft

Main predators of adults are great whites. Orcas avoid females but prey on males as well as smaller individuals. Blue sharks & blue marlins prey on juveniles.
 
Endangered due to overfishing for meat/fins/skins/oil, marine pollution, coastal development, accidental bycatch, boat strikes, & habitat degradation.
 
Sexually mature at around 25 years old.
 
They’re filter feeders, using huge mouth as sieve to scoop up food.
 
Called whale shark due to size & baleen whale like filter feeding habits.
 
They have around 3,000 tiny teeth, which are of little use.
 
They’re viviparous, w/ young hatching inside mom & coming out live.
 
Only extant member of its family.
 
Mating filmed for first time in 2019 off Ningaloo Reef off of NW Australia via airplane, when larger male unsuccessfully attempted to mate w/ immature female.
 
They’re slow swimmers, w/ an average speed of 3 mph.

Fun Fact(s):
Each whale shark has own unique pattern of spots, similar to human fingerprints.
 
It’s featured on reverse of Philippine 100-peso bill.
 
Though huge, they’re gentle giants, sometimes allowing divers/swimmers to hitch rides, though this is highly discouraged by experts.
 
Rare in captivity due to huge size. Only place outside of Asia to house them being Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta in 6.3 million gallon Ocean Voyager tank (largest indoor aquatic habitat in world).

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