The whale shark possesses many special qualities that help them stand out as one of the most unique creatures on Earth. Worldwide, whale sharks are present in the waters of over 100 countries, most of which are tropical and warm temperate seas. Areas that are most commonly associated with these creatures are Mexico, Belize, Japan, Thailand, the Galapagos, Honduras, South Africa, and India.
Due to their great size, whale sharks are commonly associated with the whale family. Contrary to popular belief, these creatures are part of the shark family, but have a host of characteristics that are special to them. Let’s explore some interesting whale shark facts that showcase this fish’s unique role and purpose in nature.
Their Sheer Size
The first of our whale shark facts talks about their size in relation to the rest of the animal kingdom. Whale sharks are gigantic fish, but just how big? Whale sharks are the largest living fish on the planet. They are part of a group called Chondryichtyes, which includes sharks, rays, and skates. What separates this group of fish from the others is their skeletal makeup. Chondryichtyes have skeletons made entirely of cartilage, while other fish have skeletons made of bone. These sharks can reach up to 40 feet in length and weigh over 20 tons! That’s over 40,000 pounds!
Our first whale shark fact discussed how big these aquatic animals can get. When hearing numbers such as 40 feet and 20 tons, you might think that these creatures simply eat anything that comes into their path. However, a whale shark’s prey are some of the smallest organisms found in the ocean.
The whale shark is one of three shark species that are filter feeders. The other sharks that are filter feeders include the basking shark, and the megamouth shark. In order to eat, a filter feeder will jut out its formidably sized jaws and passively filter everything that comes into its path. This technique has often been referred to as cross-flow filtration, which is a process similar to that of some bony fish, as well as baleen whales. The food that they consume during this process includes plankton, along with tiny plants and other small organisms.
As human beings, our fingerprints are unique to every individual. The next of our whale shark facts discusses something similar in regards to these majestic fish. Similar to the fingerprint of a human, whale sharks have a pattern of spots around the gill area that are unique to each individual. This unique pattern comes in handy when scientists are trying to identify specific whale sharks.
The Threat Of Predators
One of our last whale shark facts deals with potential predators to these creatures. Because of their immense size in relation to other creatures in the ocean, a whale shark has no known aquatic predators that they should be concerned with. However, humans can be considered predators to these docile and harmless creatures. Unfortunately, over-fishing and trading has caused the whale shark to be labeled vulnerable by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Whale shark parts, especially their fins, have become a major trade item used in traditional Chinese medicine. Efforts have been made to conserve the whale shark population, but as long as the need for their fins exist, the fight to keep whale sharks from being extinct will be a difficult one.
Learn More About Whale Sharks And Other Sharks At Our Website
As we can see from the whale shark facts presented, these creatures are extremely unique and necessary in order to maintain stability in the aquatic food chain. You can learn more whale shark facts and efforts being made to save these creatures at our shark website. Besides whale sharks, we have extensive information regarding other shark species and what makes them unique. If you’re a shark lover, please visit our website to get the latest information on these awesome and wondrous fish!