IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable
The whale shark is a “cosmopolitan” species, meaning it is found throughout most of the world, in tropical and warm temperate seas
Found in deep waters, coastal waters, and coral reef systems
The whale shark is the largest fish in the sea!
This species undertakes large-scale migrations, often spanning multiple years and thousands of miles
Whale sharks can also dive very deep during these migrations
Whale sharks are ovoviviparous….do you remember what this means? J
Females can carry around 300 embryos, and pups have been measured at ~2 feet total length (total length measures tip of snout to tip of caudal tail)
It is thought that whale sharks grow up to 15 meters (49 ft), but have been reported up to 20 meters (66 ft)
Whale shark length of gestation, birth locations, and reproductive frequency are still not understood
Whale sharks are one of three shark species that filter feeds….do you know the other two?
Unlike the other two species, the whale shark doesn’t use forward motion for feeding all the time, but also will hang vertically in the water column and use suction feeding to obtain food
Even though whale sharks are the largest fish, they have been held at several aquariums around the world, which has allowed for a greater understanding of their biology and behavior
The whale sharks has been targeted within harpoon and entanglement fisheries, and is valued for it’s fins and meat for consumption
Ecotourism groups that enable swimming with whale sharks are increasing in number around the world, and in some cases hold more economic value than whale shark fisheries