Wonderful Whales Sharks: the Ocean’s Biggest Fish

The Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) is the largest fish in the world, and they are disappearing.

At up to 61 feet (18 m) whale sharks can be found in all temperate and tropical oceans around the world with the exception of the Mediterranean Sea. One of the only three species of sharks that filter their food including the megamouth shark and the basking shark, whale sharks diet consists almost exclusively of plankton and larvae. These slow swimming surface dwelling sharks migrate thousands of miles to separate feeding grounds.

These sharks can process more than 1500 gallons of water an hour through their gills filtering small shrimp, fish, and plankton through modified their gill rakers. While feeding, whale sharks open their gaping mouths and sweep move head from side while opening and closing their gills to rid excess of water and create suction.

Not a whale, its a shark!

The largest whales sharks can weigh over 30 tons and give live birth to a succession of 300 pups. These sharks are killed as bycatch in fishing gear, for food and as caught deliberately for their fins primarily for display in Asian restaurants. Their ocean habitat is also in danger. Climate change warms the water and changes current patterns- affecting both habitats, prey, and shark population shifts. Other threats include filtering poisonous and obstructive ocean plastic pollution, and entanglement in nets.

Whale sharks are becoming increasingly important to humans through ecotourism, and diving with whale sharks has become a popular ecotourism attraction in several countries.

Download our Whale Shark Fact Sheet and help us keep these sharks swimming!