Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) is a filter-feeder species of sharks. It is by far the largest living fish in the world. Its body is speckled with pale yellow to white spots. Its belly is white and the sides have gray-to-brown shade. Whale shark has 10 filter pads, 300 to 350 rows of teeth and mouth as wide as 4.9 feet. These are highly mobile creatures. On average, whale sharks migrate 24 to 28 kilometers each day. Its ancestors first appeared around 60 million years before.
The length of a whale shark ranges from 18 to 32.8 feet and weighs around 20.8 tons. The largest whale shark ever recorded had a length of 41.5 feet. At birth, the size of a pup is about 40 to 60 centimeters in length.
Typically, the whale shark has a lifespan of 70 years or more.
Male shark matures at about 17 years while female reaches maturity at the age of 22 years.
A litter size can range up to 304 pups at a time, which is the largest for any shark.
Whale shark is present off India, Arabian Gulf, Galapagos, the Philippines, Western Australia (Ningaloo Reef), Mexico, Southern China, Mozambique, Taiwan, Indonesia and the Gulf of Oman.
The most preferred meal of the whale shark is plankton like copepod and fish eggs. However, it also readily feeds on other tiny organisms like crab larvae, squid, krill, tunas, jellyfish and sardines. For feeding, it keeps its mouth wide open and filters the small plants and fish. Thus, its teeth do not play any role in feeding.
Whale shark is extremely gracious and friendly with humans. At times, it seems to enjoy the company of humans so much that it allows them to hitch a ride.
In Vietnam, it is known as ‘sir fish’.