The whale shark is one of the most marvelous and interesting creatures to roam Earth’s waters. They are generally found in tropical climates, where the water is warm and comfortable for them. They are rarely found in any waters that are below 72º F (22º C).
Modeling has suggested that their lifespan lasts about 70 years, but these measurements have proven to be difficult, and may not be entirely accurate. They have very large mouths and are known as filter feeders, which is a mode of feeding that occurs only in two other sharks found in the ocean, the megamouth shark, and the basking shark. As a filter feeder, the whale shark feeds almost exclusively on plankton, and therefore, is completely harmless to humans.
With that being said, it may come to surprise that the whale shark is the largest known fish species to roam the Earth at this present time. The average whale shark weight is about 20.6 tons, which is a monstrous size considering what this animal eats on a regular basis. They are also about 18 to 32 feet in length, comparing to the size of our school buses! So how do these whale sharks get so big?
What Makes Whale Sharks So Big?
It seems that scientists may have figured out the reasoning behind the whale shark’s weight. The large, krill eating sharks appear to be negative buoyant, meaning that they sink to the bottom of the ocean in order to reach their food. Because of this, the whale shark conserves up to 30 percent of the energy needed to stay down in the depths of the ocean. This energy conservation allows whale sharks to stay warmer for longer periods of time, which in turn, directly affects the length of time they can forage for food.
There is another factor involved regarding whale shark weight and their overall size. Research shows that the critical organs of a whale shark are surrounded by huge blocks of white muscle, which appear to insulate the whale shark. This allows these sharks to stay warmer for longer, despite deep expeditions to the colder areas of the ocean. For whale sharks, the larger they get, the more heat they can store. Therefore, they can forage longer for food. Because of these biological observations, scientists believe that whale sharks have evolved to become bigger and bigger over time.
Other Reasons For A Whale Shark’s Weight
There may be some other reasons that contribute to a whale shark weight and size. First off, by being a large creature, their foraging range is increased. This enables them to travel farther in search of prey, and allows them to store greater amounts of food while traveling between patches of rich feeding zones. By being large in size, whale shark’s also have the ability to process huge amounts of water. A larger mouth allows for greater volumes of water to be consumed, and therefore, more plankton to be eaten. Lastly, because a whale shark’s weight is so great, they have relative freedom from any types of predation. Most predators are too small to mess with these creatures.
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In conclusion, the factors surrounding whale shark weight deal with the creature’s ability to consume high volumes of food, while being able to stay warm during their descent to the cold depths of the ocean. By being large, the whale shark is able to conserve high amounts of heat for long trips at the bottom of the ocean, as well as consume high amounts food so that they can go long distances without needing to feed again. By being large, these whale sharks are protected from most predators, since none of them are as large as this filter feeding creature.
If you’re interested in learning more about whale sharks, as well as other types of sharks, please visit our website for more information! You can learn everything you need to know about the anatomy of a shark, as well as the different types of sharks in the ocean. Become a shark expert with us today!