20 Interesting Facts About Whale Sharks

  1. The whale shark is the biggest fish in the ocean. It can reach a length of up to 40 feet. This shark species is present in all tropical and warm-temperate seas around the globe. (Source)
  2. Whale sharks are not dangerous to humans. Juvenile sharks may run away from humans, but adults remain calm in the company of human divers.
  3. Though whale sharks are not dangerous, they can act strangely under stress. A large whale shark almost swallowed a diver before forcefully spitting her outside its mouth. (Source)
  4. The whale shark has the toughest and thickest skin (on its back) in the animal kingdom. The average thickness of their skin is 10 cm (4 inches). (Source)
  5. Whale sharks have an extremely long lifespan. The latest research shows that these fish can live for up to 130 years. (Source)
  6. The name of whale sharks is due to their large size and filter-feeding habits similar to the baleen whales.
  7. Whale sharks are one of only three filter-feeder sharks, along with megamouth and basking sharks. Their mouth is around 5 feet wide, and contains more than 300 teeth and ten filter pads. They usually eat plankton and small fish. Whale sharks use suction water or ram feed techniques to get food.
    Whale shark teeth
    There are more than 300 teeth in whale shark's mouth

  8. Whale sharks have five large gill slits above the pectoral fins on each side of the head region. These gill slits catch plankton and let the water return to the sea.
  9. Whale sharks have highly efficient gills. They use their gills to process more than 6,000 liters of water every hour.
  10. The eyes of whale sharks have a covering of teeth-like structures. These abrasion-resistant dermal denticles (or eye denticles) provide eye protection to these sharks. Whale sharks can also protect their eyes by retracting their eyeballs into eye sockets. (Source)
  11. Whale sharks can recover from injuries very quickly. Collisions with boats can cause abrasions and lacerations in whale sharks. However, they can get rid of them in a few weeks. These sharks can also re-grow dorsal fins in case of their partial removal. (Source)
  12. Female whale sharks are larger than male sharks. An important distinguishing feature between these two genders is the presence of pair of claspers in male whale sharks.
  13. Whale sharks are migratory fish that travel for 5,000 miles. The purpose of these migrations is to reach areas rich in food (plankton and small fish). Female whale sharks migrate to reproduce in favorable places. (Source)
  14. Whale sharks have a unique pattern of spots and stripes on their belly. These spots assist in the identification of each shark, like fingerprints in humans.
  15. A whale shark is a slow swimming fish due to its large size. It has an average swimming speed of 3 mph (5 km/h).
  16. Around 75% of whale sharks are present in the Indo-Pacific. The remaining 25% of the population is in the Atlantic Ocean.
  17. The world’s largest known gathering of whale sharks took place in 2009 off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. More than 420 whale sharks were observable on that occasion. (Source)
  18. The whale shark has been listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List status. It faces several risks like habitat loss, land and noise pollution, boat traffic, and illegal fishing for meat and fins.
  19. Despite their enormous size, whale sharks are present in a few very large aquariums. Apart from the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, all of these aquariums are in Asia.
  20. Like great white and basking sharks, whale sharks have ovoviviparous reproduction. The newborn sharks are mostly 40-60 cm long.

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