Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) are the largest fish on the planet and can grow up to 18 meters in length! Now if you’ve seen Jaws, you must be wondering: Can it eat me? If so, why haven’t I heard of these sharks before? Well, whale sharks are filter-feeders and feed on plankton (very small crustaceans and fish) so they hardly make the news. More importantly, they are an endangered species and are only found in tropical seas and oceans around the world. Very little remains known about these sharks in terms of breeding, reproduction, and migration; however, they are the focus of many ecotourism operations. People will fly from all over the world to catch a glimpse of such massive animals in their natural habitat.
Sketch and fact contributed by Ruhi Garg.
Ruhi is a second year wildlife, fish and conservation biology major at UC Davis. Her love for whale sharks began when she volunteered with the maldives whale shark research program a few years ago. You can see some awesome ocean photography on her instagram here.
Source: Kuiter, R.H. and Godfrey, T., 2014. Fishes of the Maldives–Indian Ocean: Applicable to Central and Western Indian Ocean: East Africa, Seychelles, Mauritius, Reunion, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Chagos, Laccadives, Cocos Keeling Islands. Atoll Editions.