One of the greatest mysteries on Earth and the biggest mystery in the Ocean, very little is known about the species. Perhaps rather sadly the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” is the reason why the human race has not focussed upon nor truly understood, until perhaps recently, the importance of the oceans in the existence and survival of life on Earth.
what do we know AND
what do we DON'T know? Find out HERE!
Is a whale shark
a whale (mammal) or a shark (fish)?
Whale sharks are fish, NOT mammals, as many people believe. They do not breathe air! The name “whale” refers simply to their size. It is the world’s largest fish and the biggest shark EVER to exist. YES even bigger than the extinct prehistoric MEGALODON.
How large are they?
They reach up to 18m-20m in length and weigh in average around 25 tonnes, bigger than the average school bus. The largest recorded whale shark was caught in Taiwan in 1987; she weighed 34 tonnes.
What do they eat?
They are filter feeders, sucking in huge amounts of water with zooplankton, fish and coral eggs and fish larvae making up the majority of their diet. So the biggest fish in the ocean feeds on the smallest marine creatures.
How do they reproduce?
They are “ovoviviparous” meaning the young hatch from eggs, as with all fish, but the incubation is internal and the young are born alive.
They can carry over 300 foetuses or young, which makes them by far, the most prolific of all sharks. The largest land animal, the elephant only has one young at a time.
What do we know about the pups?
The young whale sharks, called “pups” measure between 40 - 60 cm at birth and weigh only 3 – 5 kg.
The largest of all marine creatures, the blue whale gives birth to a calf that measures around 7m and 2.5 tonnes in weight.
How deep do they dive?
They dive to great depths. The deepest dive being to 1928m in the Yucatan Peninsula, yes that is almost two kilometres down.
Temperatures down there are only just a couple of degrees Celsius above freezing.
Where you can find whale sharks?
They are found in all the oceans of the world between around 40° North and 35° South and prefer sub tropical and tropical waters with an average temperature between 22°C and 26°C.
How to determine sex?
In Galapagos we find 99.8% FEMALE! ! !
WHALE SHARK SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION:
Chondrichthyes (cartilaginous fish)
Elasmobranchii (sharks and rays)
Where do whale sharks give birth?
Hard to believe but no one has EVER seen a whale shark give birth.
Where do the young survive for the first years of life?
Only 21 neonates, (new-born pups) have been found in the wild and generally whale sharks are 3 – 4 m in length before they are spotted in the wild which would make them around 3 – 4 years old. So where are they living until this time?
How many whale sharks live in the oceans and what is the ratio male to female?
They have never been observed matting and no one is really sure where this might occur.
Also, most populations seen worldwide are juveniles and males. There are very few places where one can observe female adults, the GALAPAGOS BEING ONE OF THEM!
How far do they travel in a year or their lifetime?
Satellite data from Nazca, #151676 has shown us how far they might travel in one year. But how far do they travel in their lifetime - nobody knows.
How many years they live?
This can only be estimated. About 70 years more or less. Just like humans.
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