Animal Spotlight: Whale sharks!


PLOS One, Taketeru et al

Whale Sharks, their scientific name being Rhincodon typus, are the largest fish and shark species in the world. In addition to their size, they’re fascinating, complex creatures.

They can grow more than 40 feet, and luckily for humans, they only have a sea based diet. Whale Sharks’ favorite food is plankton and sometimes other small fish, which they’re able to eat a lot of with the help of their wide, large mouths. On the Oceana charity’s page for Whale Sharks, they state that they’re a filter feeder animal, meaning they filter food particles and tiny things from water to eat. Just like a lot of other sea creatures, the species is also endangered because of global warming heating up the water. Plastic pollution is another part of their endangerment, as they could get tangled in it or could be digested by the Whale Sharks.

Unfortunately, not many Whale Sharks make it to adulthood. But, when they do, they live up to 100 years and sometimes even more. Stated in a National Geographic article about Whale Sharks by Laura Geortrzel, these gentle sharks can be found in all tropical oceans of the world, besides the Mediterranean Sea. Whale Sharks like to swim near the surface of the ocean, so if you’re far enough out from land, you might have the chance to see one! They travel on their own and migrate a long way even as slow swimmers, only ever going as fast as three miles per hour at a regular swimming speed. Appearance wise, Whale Sharks can range from being grayish blue to grayish brown on their backs with white spots. They have a regular white fish belly, but their eyes are right beside their mouth because of their flatter head.

Whale Sharks in their own habitat don’t have many predators. The most known Whale Shark predators are blue sharks, blue marlin, and humans. According to The Pew Charitables Trusts, these sharks are usually hunted for their meat, fish oil, skin, and fins. Many places around the world put legal protection on Whale Sharks to help them from being hunted or going extinct, like Indonesia, the Maldives, and Palou. Unfortunately, there are still places around the world where Whale Sharks are allowed to be killed. This is a majority of the reason why this sea animal–and a lot of other sea animals–are endangered.

There are so many more interesting aspects to Whale Sharks. Hopefully this page helped you learn about a different species you didn’t know of, or an animal you wished to learn more about!