Whale shark: curiosities, feeding and characteristics

The whale shark is an animal that lives in the marine environment. Despite having that name, he is not a species of whale. It is also known as pintadinho and its scientific name is  Rhincodon typus. The whale shark is a cartilaginous fish and is considered the largest of the sharks , reaching up to 12 meters in length and weighing 21 tons. Some manage to exceed 12 meters, so the largest record ever found was a 19 meter long whale shark.

The whale shark is not aggressive, on the contrary, it is a docile, gentle, playful animal that allows it to be petted by divers. He has the habit of living in isolation, and it is very rare to find this living being living in a group. It inhabits the open sea waters of the oceans of tropical regions. This type of shark is not a dangerous animal!

The whale shark is considered the largest species of fish in the world. Despite having a frightening and exaggerated appearance, it is a tame and harmless animal, which allows interaction with humans. In Brazil, it can be seen all over the coast, being found mainly in the archipelagos of São Pedro and São Paulo in Pernambuco .

What does the whale shark feed on?

First, the whale shark is not a hunting animal, nor does it have predatory habits. He is a filtering shark, which feeds through his huge mouth without much effort. When you open your mouth and swim forward, water and food enter. Then, the water is eliminated from the mouth through the gills and the food is retained. Therefore, it feeds on everything that enters through the mouth , as it is not selective.

The whale shark is the largest among all sharks (Photo: depositphotos)

Usually, the whale shark feeds on algae, phytoplankton, small fish, crustaceans, squid , among others. It is capable of filtering about 6,000 liters of water per hour! It is estimated that a young shark is capable of feeding 21 kilos of phytoplankton per day.

The whale shark’s mouth has a flat shape and is quite large when opened. It is full of small teeth, as it is a non-predator animal, its teeth are not very developed. He uses them very little when chewing the food captured through filtration. Your mouth can measure on average five feet wide.

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Physically, it is the largest of sharks, however, it is not agile . It moves in the water at a low speed, due to its weight and size. It has dark gray color in shades of gradient . Its entire body is covered by horizontal and vertical patches , such drawings being very important for the identification of the species by biologists. They have pectoral and dorsal fins, as well as a tail fin.

Whale shark and its vertical and horizontal spots (Photo: depositphotos)

Habitat and reproduction

They prefer warm waters , so they almost never leave the tropics. They can be seen on the Yucatan Peninsula, the islands of Honduras, the Galapagos Islands, the Philippines, Thailand, Western Australia, the Caribbean and Brazil. They have rarely been observed on the coasts of New York and in the South African region. The largest distribution of these animals is located in the Philippines, between the months of January to May. The researchers say they are animals with migratory habits in the search for food and during reproduction.

The whale shark is considered an ovoviviparous animal , that is, the fertilization is internal with storage of eggs inside the female. Embryos hatch from the eggs and still inside the mother’s body, complete their development. The embryos are fed through the yolk sac, where they remain attached until birth. This type of reproduction is also called lecithotrophic viviparity.

Whale shark females reach sexual maturity at around 30 years of age and give birth to cubs that are 40 to 60 centimeters long.

Shark breeding scheme

Predatory hunting

The whale shark is a species considered vulnerable, that is, with the possibility of extinction. He is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list . In some countries, such as Taiwan, predatory hunting of this animal is still allowed.

See also : Oceanography

The whale shark and tourism

Some regions have become the target of much tourism, due to the presence of the whale shark. In Australia, for example, in some places it is possible to swim alongside this shark. Apparently, this animal can be scary, due to its size and physical characteristics.

For being docile, this species allows contact with humans in a peaceful way (Photo: depositphotos)

What is the largest animal in the oceans?

The whale shark is considered the  largest shark in the oceans, however, other animals manage to overcome its size. We can highlight some living beings as being the largest animals on the ocean floor, such as:

1- White shark : it is the largest marine predator in existence, however, it is not the largest of all animals. But its size is scary and can reach around 7 meters in length.

2- Regaleco : also known as oar fish, it is a strange, bizarre type of fish, very long, reaching 12 meters in length. In the past, it was known as a sea monster.

3- Giant octopus: the giant octopus lives in the depths of the oceans and its enormous tentacles measure up to 10 meters.

4- Giant squid: the giant squid also inhabits the depths of the oceans and this animal is capable of reaching 12 meters.

5- Basking shark: the basking shark can exceed the size of the white shark, reaching approximately 12 meters.

6- Sperm whale: this whale, belonging to the cetacean family, can measure 24 meters. This animal became well known due to the literary work “ Moby Dick ”, written by Herman Melville.

– Blue whale: it is the largest known whale, reaching up to 33 meters in length.

8- Lion mane living water: the largest animal in the ocean environment is a type of living water, where its tentacles reach 36 meters.

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