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Whale Shark

Picture above By User:Zac Wolf (original), enhanced by User:madmax32 (en:Image:Whale-shark-enhanced.jpg)[see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons

Whale Shark Fact Sheet

The Whale Shark, Rhincodon typus is a large fish.  The smallest ever recorded was about 15 inches (38cm) long, but there are reports of Whale Sharks over 20 m (62 feet) long although there is some lack of evidence concerning ones this big.  There have certainly been accurate records of Whale Sharks 12m (37 feet) long. 

The Whale Shark species is possibly as much as 60 million years old, but has only been known to western science since about 1828.  Individual Whale Sharks may live for as much as 100 years, but as with many things about the interesting species there is some guess work concerning their life span.  The Whale Shark is listed as migratory and vulnerable, but again this is partly based on how little we really know about the Whale Shark.

The Whale Shark is a plankton feeder and filters large quantities of seawater, removing plankton of above about 2 cm and swallowing it.  In addition, much of the smaller plankton is also captured by a settling process in the shark’s mouth.  They will actively seek out concentrations of plankton, and the appearance of Whale Sharks at some locations off the coast of Western Australia, including Ningaloo Reef each year between April and July, coincides with mass spawning of coral.
         
  Whale Shark Eating Plankton                 Snorkling with A Whale Shark
Both the photographs above were by Jaontiveros  [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Free_Documentation_License

Whale Sharks are live bearing fish like the Guppy but the Whale Shark is bigger than the Guppy.  Little is really known about the breeding of the Whale Shark. 

Whale Sharks seem to prefer warmer water between 30̊ north and 35̊ south.  It is probable that most of the Whale Shark’s feeding is on or near the surface because this is the main place they are likely to find high concentrations of plankton, but they can certainly dive as deep as 700m (2200 feet).

One of the most reliable places to find Whale Sharks is off the coast of Western Australia.  There are companies running charters to see Whale Sharks; if you are interested, see http://www.whalesharkdive.com/.

Whale Sharks have been kept in large aquariums for public display and study, but this is not a fish I recommend for home aquariums.  The Whale Shark is a peaceful fish, not attacking Humans or other big things. Humans can swim with them, but care needs to be taken to avoid their tail as they swim.

Whale Sharks do not appear to be efficient swimmers, but still cover long distances.